Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hollywood Living Legends

Hollywood…the film industry in general…has many people over the decades who are considered legends in the business.  Right now, there are several who are living legends, most of whom are still working in the business and providing us with marvelous entertainment.  Following is a list of living legends who are 80 years of age and older.

Robert Redford, 80 years old this year: 1 Oscar.  Probably best known for his acting roles in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, The Sting, and All The President's Men as well as his Oscar for directing Ordinary People.  I remember seeing a very young Robert Redford in an episode of the original Twilight Zone (in black and white). Through his efforts in creating and supporting the Sundance Film Festival, many talented newcomers have been discovered. Career 1960 to present.

Dame Julie Andrews, 80 years old: 1 Oscar, 2 Emmy, 3 Grammy.  Best known for her roles in The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins.  Many Hollywood insiders felt her Best Actress Oscar for Mary Poppins (although certainly deserved) was a sentimental/sympathy vote by the Academy members because she had been skipped over for the Eliza Doolittle role in the film version of My Fair Lady, a role she originated on Broadway to great acclaim.  Career 1945 to present.

Dame Judi Dench, 81 years old: 1 Oscar, 1 Tony.  Considered by many to be the greatest Shakespearean actress, also adept at comedy as evidenced by her leading role in the British produced television series As Time Goes By (airing on PBS on American television). Career 1957 to present.

Dame Maggie Smith, 81 years old: 2 Oscar, 3 Emmy, 1 Tony.  Currently entertaining audiences with her role on Downton Abbey.  I really enjoyed her performance in Death On The Nile, an Agatha Christie mystery with an all star cast. Career 1952 to present.

Shirley MacLaine, 82 years old: 1 Oscar, 1 Emmy.  Started her career as a dancer on Broadway with her big break coming when the star of Pajama Game broke her foot and Shirley stepped into the starring role.  She has entertained us in many musicals as well as dramatic roles. Career 1953 to present.

Carol Burnett, 83 years old: 6 Emmy.  Certainly best known for her marvelous weekly television variety series, The Carol Burnett Show.  She has also done many television movies, guest starring appearances on other television series, and theatrical movies.  Career 1955 to present.

Sir Michael Caine, 83 years old: 2 Oscar.  His starring role in Alfie put him into the international star category. Equally adept at comedy and drama.  One of my favorite Michael Caine movies is Without A Clue, a comedy where he played Sherlock Holmes to fellow Oscar winner Ben Kingsley's Dr. Watson with a fun twist on who the characters really were. He has recently moved back to England after living in the States for many years where he continues to provide entertaining performances.

Ellen Burstyn, 83 years old: 1 Oscar, 2 Emmy, 1 Tony. Won her Best Actress Oscar for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.  Her career started on Broadway before moving to films and television.

Gene Wilder, 83 years old: 1 Emmy.  Starred in some of Mel Brooks' films including the original version of The Producers and Young Frankenstein. Currently, he is concentrating on writing novels. Career 1966 to present.

Kim Novak, 83 years old.  Best known for her roles in Picnic opposite William Holden, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo with Jimmy Stewart, and Bell Book and Candle also with Jimmy Stewart.  She is currently retired with a career from 1954 to 1991.

Rita Moreno, 84 years old: 2 Emmy, 1 Grammy, 1 Oscar, 1 Tony (known as EGOT when at least one award is received in each of the four Arts categories).  Probably best known for her supporting role in West Side Story.  She keeps very busy with her many guest starring roles on various television series.  Career 1942 to present.

Debbie Reynolds, 84 years old: 1 honorary Oscar.  Best known for her starring roles in Singing In The Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.  And yes…she's real life mother to Carrie Fisher (Star Wars' Princess Leia). Career 1948 to present.

William Shatner, 85 years old: 2 Emmy.  Certainly best known as Capt. Kirk from the original Star Trek television series (late 1960s) and 6 Star Trek theatrical movies (my personal favorite being Star Trek IV-The Journey Home where they go back in time to present day San Francisco). He also starred in 2 other successful television series, T.J. Hooker and also as the irascible Denny Crane in Boston Legal. There's also an early career performance on the original black and white Twilight Zone series that has become a classic where he sees the creature on the airplane wing. Career 1954 to present.

Robert Duvall, 85 years old: 1 Oscar, 1 Emmy.  Best known for the three Godfather films, Apocalypse Now, and television's Lonesome Dove. Career 1952 to present.

Leslie Caron, 85 years old: 1 Emmy. An unknown hand-picked by Gene Kelly to co-star opposite him in An American In Paris. Currently starring in the British television series, The Durrells. Career 1951 to present.

James Earl Jones, 85 years old: 3 Emmy, 1 Grammy, 1 honorary Oscar, 2 Tony (another EGOT recipient).  Best known today as the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies. Career 1953 to present.

Sir Sean Connery, 85 years old: 1 Oscar.  A former Mr. Universe. The first movie James Bond, appearing as the character in several films, and many say still the best James Bond. He is currently retired with a career 1957 to 2003.

Clint Eastwood, 86 years old: 2 Oscar. Started his career as an actor on television, went to Italy and made several westerns. Portrayed several memorable characters in movies (Dirty Harry Callahan) before turning to directing and producing. His 2 Oscars were for directing and producing Unforgiven. Career 1954 to present.

Joanne Woodward, 86 years old: 1 Oscar.  Known as much for her 50 year marriage to Paul Newman (until his death in 2008) with whom she made 11 films as for her own acting career.  Best known for her Oscar winning starring role in The Three Faces Of Eve.  Career 1955 to present.

Gene Hackman, 86 years old: 2 Oscar.  Best known for his award winning role in The French Connection. Currently retired from performing. Lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he writes detective novels. Career 1954 to 2004.

Christopher Plummer: 86 years old: 1 Oscar.  At 82, the oldest actor to win a supporting actor Oscar.  Best known for starring opposite Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music.  Career 1953 to present.

Gena Rowlands, 86 years old: 1 honorary Oscar, 3 Emmy.  She did an episode of NCIS where she portrayed Gibbs' first mother-in-law. Career 1954 to present.

Max Von Sydow, 87 years old. Swedish actor (this came as a surprise to me, I always thought he was German) known for his many films with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.  Best known to American audiences for his roles in The Exorcist and Three Days Of The Condor. Career 1947 to present.

Sidney Poitier, 89 years old: 2 Oscar (1 of them honorary).  First black actor to win the Best Actor Oscar (for Lilies Of The Field).  Also known for his starring role as Virgil Tibbs, In The Heat Of The Night. He also served as American ambassador to the Bahamas (where he holds dual citizenship). He is currently retired with an acting career 1947 to 1997.

Angela Lansbury, 90 years old: 1 honorary Oscar, 5 Tony. Although best known today as Jessica Fletcher on the long running television series, Murder She Wrote, she started her career in films with her Oscar nominated role in Gaslight. Has graced the Broadway stage many times, starring in such productions as Sweeney Todd and Mame. Adept at playing the villain as well as the heroine, as evidenced by her performances in Gaslight and another Oscar nominated performance in the original The Manchurian Candidate (who would ever have thought that sweet Jessica Fletcher could be so diabolical). Career from 1943 to present.

Dick Van Dyke, 90 years old: 4 Emmy.  Best known for his television series The Dick Van Dyke Show with Mary Tyler Moore, and Diagnosis Murder.  He celebrated his 90th birthday with a flash mob singing of songs from Mary Poppins (in which he co-starred with Julie Andrews). Career from 1947 to present.

Mel Brooks, 90 years old: 4 Emmy, 2 Grammy, 1 Oscar, 3 Tony (another EGOT recipient).  Like Alfred Hitchcock, he made a brief appearance in many of his movies.  The Producers is my favorite of his movies, but we can't overlook Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety, and many others.  Both The Producers and Young Frankenstein went to Broadway as successful productions. Career 1949 to present.

Cicely Tyson, 91 years old: 3 Emmy, 1 Tony.  Currently has recurring roles in How To Get Away With Murder and House Of Cards. Career 1951 to present.

Doris Day, 92 years old.  A very successful career in movies, including popular romantic comedies with Rock Hudson, and a successful television series.  Retired from performing, but currently an animal rights advocate. Career 1948 to 1973.

Eva Marie Saint, 92 years old: 1 Oscar.  Best known for her performances in On The Waterfront (supporting actress Oscar) and North By Northwest where she co-starred with Cary Grant. Career 1954 to present.

Carl Reiner, 94 years old: 9 Emmy, 1 Grammy.  Creator, writer, and featured actor on The Dick Van Dyke Show, director of many projects (recipient of the Director's Guild of America lifetime achievement award), and real life father of actor-director Rob Reiner. Career 1950 to present.

Betty White, 94 years old: 7 Emmy, 1 Grammy. Television series include Life With Elizabeth (black and white in the early days of television), The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, and Hot in Cleveland.  The Guinness Book Of Records says she has had the longest television career of any female entertainer—75 years.  Career 1939 to present.

Kirk Douglas, 99 years old: 1 honorary Oscar.  Of his long list of film credits, he's probably best known for his staring roles in Spartacus and Lust For Life.  My favorite is The List Of Adrian Messenger.  He's the real life father of Michael Douglas.  He is retired, his career 1946 to 2008.

Olivia de Havilland, 100 years old: 2 Oscar.  Best known for her role as Melanie in Gone With The Wind.  Co-starred with Errol Flynn in several films including the popular Adventures Of Robin Hood.  She is retired, her career 1935 to 2009.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

11 Famous Products Originally Intended For A Different Purpose

Many of the world's most famous brands and products started out as something entirely different than what they are known for today. Some of the best discoveries have happen by accident, such as Silly Putty…and, of course, the 11 products listed here that range from soft drinks originally laced with powerful mind-altering drugs to medicines with unexpected, but profitable, side-effects.

Dr. John Pemberton invented the original formula of the syrupy soft drink in 1886. He had been badly injured in the battle of Columbus and, as a result, had became hopelessly addicted to prescription morphine. Being a trained pharmacist, Pemberton decided to come up with his own addiction cure. This resulted in Pemberton's French Wine Coca, a drink that contained alcohol and cocoa leaf extract—the same ingredient that makes cocaine. When Coca-Cola first appeared on the market it was labeled as a nerve tonic that "relieves exhaustion." Cocaine was removed from the product in 1903.

Surprisingly, the mouth was you've been using for years was originally marketed as a floor cleaner, a cure for gonorrhea, and was also used as a surgical antiseptic. It did not become commercially successful until re-branded as a cure for bad breath.

Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding had been attempting to come up with a new style of textured wallpaper and as a result of their efforts, according to Forbes magazine, in 1957 they created bubble wrap. They sealed together two shower curtains, which made the first layer of the bubbles. They tried selling the product first as wallpaper and later as greenhouse insulation without any success. It was not until IBM launched the 1401 computer in 1959 that bubble wrap was first used for the purpose of keeping products safe in transit.

According to Time magazine, the slinky is one of the most influential toys ever. However, the fascinating metal springs were originally invented for a much more practical purpose: stabilizing devices on ships on choppy seas. It was not until the instrument-stabilizer was accidentally knocked off a shelf and appeared to walk across a desk that its inventor, Richard James, realized that it could be a toy. James once said: "Strictly speaking, I didn't invent the Slinky. He practically walked into my life."

Scientists who developed Sildenafil Citrate, better known today as Viagra, were hoping it could lower blood pressure and treat the heart problem Angina. During clinical trials they discovered some surprising side effects—the male participants experienced erections. Curing erectile dysfunction became an incredibly lucrative future for the drug. In 2007, its original purpose was vindicated. Scientists showed that as well as boosting blood flow to the penis, the drug could also increase the amount of blood sent to the heart and lungs according.

7UP started out with a long and boring name: Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda. As the name implies, the lemon-lime flavored drink contained lithium, a drug used in the treatment of people suffering from bipolar disorder. According to The New York Times, 7UP contained lithium until 1950. It has even been suggested that the "7" in the name refers to lithium's atomic mass and "UP" had to do with an improved mood after using the product.

Rogaine is the commercial name for minoxidil—a drug which can help reduce high blood pressure. It's second use was discovered by patients taking the blood-pressure medication Loniten (which also contains minoxidil). They noticed increased hair growth on their scalp. Realizing the commercial value of this side-effect, Rogaine was made available as a hair loss solution in 1988.

William Russell Frisbie bought a bakery in Connecticut in the late 19th century, which he called the Frisbie Pie Company. After Frisbie's death, his company continued to flourish and in 1956 reached a peak production of 80,000 pies per day. Pies and cookies made by the company were purchased in a plate-shaped tin bearing the name "Frisbee Pies." Yale students discovered a second use for the tins, and began to hurl them around the university campus. As the flying disk approached its target, the thrower would shout "Frisbie" as a warning. The slightly different spelling "frisbee" is now used for the toy.

The earliest mention of the chainsaw comes from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which says the original purpose of the chainsaw was to cut bone in operations. The journal says: "Orthopedics became a specialty with the help of a new instrument, the osteotome, invented around 1830 by the German Bernard Heine. An illustration from a contemporary inventory of surgical tools shows that this clever master of prosthetics had in fact invented the chainsaw."

WD-40 is most commonly used to protect metal implements from moisture and to loosen tight screws. Around 80% of US households own a can of the stuff. It was originally used for lubricating nuclear missiles during the Cold War era. It was created by a small San Diego company, Rocket Chemical, and its retail name of WD-40 is an abbreviation for "water displacement, 40th attempt" at coming up with a viable product for the initial use.

Cleo and Noah McVicker developed the putty in 1933 to help clean up soot-covered walls [the Travel Channel's Mysteries At The Museum did a segment on this]. Made from a simple combination of flour, water, and salt, it was meant to be rolled across walls to remove dirt. However, the introduction of vinyl wallpaper (easy to clean with just soap and water) meant the concoction became unnecessary. But then, the company discovered that the formula could be used as a pliable modeling clay. Renamed Play-Doh, it was put on sale for this purpose in 1956.

This is just a sample of the many products invented for one specific purpose and ultimately used for something completely different.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Haunted Island To Be Luxury Hotel?

It's located in a picturesque setting in the middle of the Venice Lagoon. An 18-acre haunted island that the Italian government wants to have developed as the site of a luxury hotel and resort.

Venetians think the place is evil, and they're not the only ones.

The Italian island of Poveglia was used as a quarantine location during the outbreak of the Plague in the 16th century. Thousands of dead and still-living victims were basically dumped on the island to be burned and in some cases simply left to rot. Estimates say that more than 100,000 people died on the island.

Hundreds of years later, in the 1920s, Poveglia was the site of a hospital for the insane where the doctor who built the facility reportedly tortured his patients. He eventually went insane himself and took his own life.

The island has been featured on The Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures which claimed a member of their cast/crew became possessed during the production of the episode. It was also on Scariest Places On Earth.

In 2014, the Italian government announced it would auction a 99-year lease on Poveglia in order to reduce their debt with the hope that someone would develop it as a luxury resort. A couple of months later it was auctioned off with the winner of the auction, an Italian businessman named Luigi Brugnaro, paying the equivalent of $700,000 US dollars for the 99 year lease.

A spokesman for Brugnaro said he had not yet decided what he would do with the island but wanted it to have some form of public use. It was estimated the restoration of the island's derelict buildings would cost around $28 million US dollars.

Of the surviving buildings on the island, the most visible is the bell-tower which dates back to the 12th Century. It was repurposed as a lighthouse in the 1800s.

The island consists of three separate parts. A bridge connects the island on which the buildings stand with the island that was taken over by trees and vegetation. The octagonal fort is on a third separate part next to the island with the buildings but not physically connected to it.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Last Czar

Romanov family, photograph taken in 1914
I came across a news article…actually, it was September of 2015…about the Russian government's desire to reunite the remains of their last imperial family in one place—the czar, czarina, and their five children. However, the mission was not without roadblocks, namely the need to satisfy skeptics about the validity of all the remains.

On September 23, 2015, Russian investigators exhumed the body of Czar Nicholas Romanov II and his wife, Alexandra, as part of an investigation into the family's death in 1918. It's part of the ongoing attempt to confirm the remains really belong to Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children. Some of the family's remains were tested in the early 1990s (the early days of DNA testing) with the results being that the scientists were pretty confident that it's really them. The remains exhumed at that time included the czar, his wife, three of their children and several servants. Two of the children, Alexei and Maria, were unaccounted for at that time. But…the officials weren't able to convince the Russian Orthodox Church about the authenticity of the remains.

The church officials have not come out with their exact reasons for doubt. There had been some discussion about the Romanov family having been canonized in 2000 which made the remains holy relics which required a different way of treating them. In general, church leaders say they just aren't convinced. The church's approval is important for bringing the family's remains together.

The church did, somewhat reluctantly, allow the family's remains to be interred in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg where most of Russia's other czars are buried. But the church still had not accepted the family's identities in spite of the fact that several rounds of DNA testing had occurred.

In 2007 another burial site was located containing the remains of a young man and a young woman. More DNA testing confirmed they were Alexei and Maria. Those remains, however, were left sitting on a shelf because the Russian Orthodox Church balked at the idea of adding them to the family tomb. The church says it believes the family's remains were destroyed and won't change their position until they are 100 percent sure regardless of the DNA confirmation.

In February 2016 the church once again blocked the reuniting of the remains. Currently, the most prevalent explanation is that the church hierarchy wants to avoid the decision because either choice would alienate key factions. Rejecting the bones will anger some Orthodox adherents, particularly those outside Russia, while accepting them will incense a conservative domestic faction that believes the Soviet government somehow faked the original burial at the time they died and those aren't the real remains of Czar Nicholas II and his family.

And the entire effort remains in limbo.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

20 English Language Phrases Mispronounced or Misspelled (continuation of The Confusion Of The English Language)

As pointed out in my blog from July 3rd, the English language (or at least the American branch of the language) is often confusing even to those who were born here.  I can't imagine learning it as a second language.  Where other languages seem to have set rules, English has set rules that all seem to have exceptions and sometimes even those exceptions have exceptions.

Here is a list of 21 commonly mispronounced or misspelled phrases.

It didn't phase me, should be: It didn't faze me.

For all intensive purposes, should be: For all intents and purposes.

He has another thing coming, should be: He has another think coming.

Escape goat, should be: Scape goat.

One in the same, should be: One and the same.

Given free reign, should be: Given free rein.

Low and behold, should be: Lo and behold.

Case and point, should be: Case in point.

I could care less, should be: I couldn't care less.

Peak your interest, should be: Pique your interest.

Hunger pains, should be: Hunger pangs.

Suppose to, should be: Supposed to.

Should of, should be: Should have.

Nipped that problem in the butt, should be:  Nipped that problem in the bud.

Mute point, should be: Moot point.

Piece of mind, should be: Peace of mind.

Beck on call, should be: Beck and call.

On accident, should be: By accident.

Expresso, should be: Espresso.

and probably the most commonly misused:

Irregardless, should be: Regardless.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The English Language

The English language (or at least the American branch of the language) is often confusing even to those who were born here.  I can't imagine learning it as a second language.  Where other languages seem to have set rules, English has set rules that are filled with exceptions and sometimes even those exceptions have exceptions.

A good example is the rule 'i before e' (the spelling rule) except after c' (exception to rule) 'or when sounded as a, as in weigh' (exception to the exception).

We'll begin with a box and the plural is boxes, but the plural of ox became oxen, not oxes.

One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese, yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice, yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men, why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?

If I spoke of my foot and show you my feet, and I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth, why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that and three would be those, yet hat in the plural would never be hose. And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.

We speak of a brother and also of brethren, but though we say mother, we never say methren.

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him, but imagine the feminine, she, shis and shim.

Some reasons to be grateful if you grew up speaking English rather than learning it as a second (or even third) language:

1)       The bandage was wound around the wound.
2)       The farm was used to produce produce.
3)       The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4)       We must polish the Polish furniture.
5)       He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6)       The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7)       Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8)       At the army base a bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9)       When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10)     I did not object to the object.
11)     The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12)     There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13)     They were too close to the door to close it.
14)     The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15)     A seamstress and a sewer fell down into the sewer line.
16)     To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17)     The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18)     After a number of Novocain injections, my jaw got number.
19)     Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
20)     I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21)     How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
22)     I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.

Let's face it – English is a crazy language.  There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.  English muffins weren't invented in England.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.  And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it, an odd or an end?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?  Ship by truck and send cargo by ship?  Have noses that run and feet that smell?  How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

If dad is pop, how's come mom isn't mop?

Are you totally confused yet?  If not, then check out my blog for next week where I continue with the eccentricities of the English language.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

One Weird Fact About Your State—Part 5 of 5, South Dakota through Wyoming with an added bonus

This is the fifth and final of my five-part blog series of weird state facts.

Everyone's home state has special…and weird…claims to fame, maybe even weirder than you realize.  For every proud historical landmark, event and hero your state has produced, there are countless bizarre ones it can claim.  I hope you enjoy these random pieces of trivia about the states.

South Dakota—The world's fastest recorded change in temperature.
On January 22, 1943, the temperature in Spearfish changed from 4 degrees below zero Fahrenheit to 45 degrees above zero in two minutes, a difference of 49 degrees, making it the world record holder for fastest temperature change. Later in the day, after the town heated up a bit more, the temperature dropped back to 4 degrees below zero, causing windows to crack.

Tennessee—The band PARAMORE broke a decades long Nashville Curse...but were then accused of being a fake band.
The Nashville Curse began in the early 1980s and plagued rock bands from Music City for more than two decades. The legend claims that a band called JASON & THE NASHVILLE SCORCHERS agreed to take the word Nashville out of their name to secure a record deal. This supposedly cast a curse that prevented them from reaching mainstream success.  The curse followed around other rock bands who never surpassed local fame. It was finally declared broken by the band PARAMORE in 2008, but in 2010 two of the original co-founders claimed they were a fake band created by their record label. Lead singer Haley Williams has denied this. The Nashville band KINGS OF LEON has gone platinum since.

Texas—The state legislature once honored the Boston Strangler.
On April 1, 1971, Texas state Rep. Tom Moore proposed a bill to honor Albert DeSalvo, the self-confessed Boston Strangler who allegedly murdered 13 women. Moore's point was to show that his colleagues didn't read the bills they were voting on, a point that was proven correct when the state House approved the bill. Moore retracted the bill after its passage.

Utah—NASA measures space sickness using the name of a U.S. senator from the state.
NASA's unofficial scale for measuring motion sickness in space is called the Garn Scale. Jake Garn was formerly a U.S. senator from Utah and was an astronaut on the Discovery mission, where his job was to purposefully get sick for research. Garn claims he never actually threw up.

Vermont—A giant dome was almost built over a city just north of Burlington.
The town of Winooski was almost covered in a giant dome when city planners decided it might be a good way to address the town's winter energy conservation problem. This idea apparently came about after a few glasses of wine, but ended up going far enough to attract political support and worldwide media attention. In the end, the town couldn't secure the funds, meaning that Winooski remains domeless. [Hmmm…not to be confused with Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME]

Virginia—The residents of a small fishing island still talk in a dialect closely resembling Restoration English.
Tangier Island has retained a dialect that's been determined to closely resemble the language used during Restoration England, a period just slightly after Shakespeare's time. Even though the recent proliferation of television programs and other mass communication devices has deteriorated the accent, for generations the inhabitants spoke like early English settlers and are featured in the documentary, AMERICAN TONGUES.

Washington—There's a mystery soda machine here that is somehow always filled, but no one knows by whom.
According to legend, nobody knows who stocks or owns the Mystery Coke Machine in Seattle, but it never runs out of soda. The machine appears to be from the 1970s and features a Mystery Button that, when chosen, spits out a random soda that isn't one of the other choices. The machine has a Facebook fan page that claims the machine is always open for business.

West Virginia—According to legend, this state is home to Mothman, a tall satanic figure with wings.
In the late 1960s, a couple in the town of Point Pleasant claimed they had seen a man-bird hybrid with glowing red eyes—and so the legend of Mothman was born. Mothman has apparently shown up more and more over the years, so the town immortalized the beast with a statue, festivals and a museum. Mothman was also featured in the 2002 film, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES.

Wisconsin—There's an upside down replica of the White House that makes absolutely no sense.
Top Secret in Wisconsin Dells is an upside down White House that also has upside down furniture and a fun house attraction inside. However, that's not the truly weird part. It has received a poor 1.5 rating on both TripAdvisor and Yelp, where people have said that despite the high ticket price tour guides are often nowhere to be found, the heat isn't turned on in the winter, all that's inside is a "shot of air from an air compressor" and the place is just really dusty in general. One reviewer seemed to perfectly sum it up as, "we weren't even sure what the whole point was." That said, although it doesn't seem to be all that fun inside, the reviewers do agree the outside is still pretty cool. There's actually a chain of upside down White Houses called Wonderworks in 4 other states, but they don't nearly compare to the bizarreness of Dells' Top Secret and seem to be respected establishments.

Wyoming—A whole town was built on top of an abandoned airport, with the old runways serving as main roads.
The town of Bar Nunn was established in 1982 atop the old Wardwell Field airport. The original runways were used as the town's first streets. Over 2,000 people now live in the community.

BONUS: Washington D.C.—There's a Darth Vader gargoyle on the National Cathedral.
To raise money for construction on the National Cathedral's west towers during the 1980s, a contest was held for children to submit gargoyle designs to add to the construction plans. Christopher Rader won third place with his Darth Vader design, and the Sith Lord was added to the building.

And there you have it…one weird fact about each of the fifty states plus Washington, D.C.