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3 Colorful California Politicians

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When it comes to offbeat political figures, California's history is remarkably rich—and we're not talking about The Governator. While these candidates' philosophies range from obtuse to downright crazy, their campaigns may have caused voters to wonder what the real difference is between politicians and performance artists.

Emperor Norton

The self-proclaimed "His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, Protector of Mexico" was born around 1819 in England. While many thought he was a homeless nutcase, Norton was actually celebrated and revered by many of San Francisco's citizens over a twenty-one-year period.

He issued a decree to formally dissolve the United States Congress, and later summoned the U.S. Armed Forces "to proceed with a suitable force and clear the Halls of Congress." Years later, he tried to abolish the Democratic and Republican Parties, and declared that anyone who uttered the word "Frisco" would be guilty of a High Misdemeanor and pay a $25 fine.

The Emperor spent most of his time walking around town dressed in full regalia and sword, inspecting cable cars and making sure the community's affairs were in order. He gained such notoriety and influence that he issued his own currency, which was accepted as legal tender by local businesses. After Norton's death in 1880, a reported 10,000 people turned up at his funeral.

Jello Biafra

Jello-Biafra1.jpgJello Biafra, born Eric Boucher in Boulder, Colorado, is best known as the lead singer of San Francisco's volatile punk pioneers, The Dead Kennedys. Singing into a microphone to make people upset wasn't enough for him, so he made a serious bid for Mayor of San Francisco in 1979.

His platform included an asymmetrical mix of items, ranging from the comical (requiring businessmen to wear clownsuits during business hours, erecting statues of Dan White—who'd assassinated the mayor in 1978—all over the city) to serious proposals to improve the community (banning cars from the city limits and advocating public transportation, legalizing squatting in vacant buildings, requiring the public election of police officers). On one occasion, he showed up at Diane Feinstein's house with a leaf blower to "clean up the city," and was even bold enough to wear a pirate suit in his publicity photo.

Biafra finished fourth, and in the end, had this to say: "For those of them who have seen my candidacy as
a publicity stunt or a joke, they should keep in mind that it is no more of a joke, and no less of a joke, than anyone else they care to name."

Steve Rocco

On November 2, 2004, a mysterious character won a place on the Orange Unified School District Board of Trustees. He rarely leaves his house and refuses interviews. He will not allow himself to be fingerprinted for district records. He shows up at meetings in a costume consisting of either black or camouflage clothing, a knit cap, and sunglasses. He has self-published his own book of conspiracy theories, and has made speeches regarding something called, "The Partnership," a secretive entity that is trying to assassinate him. As of April 2008, The Board has gone so far as to vote to silence the presentation of his theories at meetings. And some even believe Rocco is none other than comedian Andy Kaufman.

Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock
6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.


59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.


116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.


74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.


111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.


430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.


327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.


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