CLOSE

The Quick 10: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Colin Powell

Mangesh very astutely pointed out the other day that Colin Powell is a guy you hear about a lot politically, but it seems like most of us don't know much about him personally. Turns out he's pretty fascinating, and he has a great sense of humor. If you've got a little time to kill, check out this interview with Larry King. It takes a while to get to the funny stuff, but near the bottom he swears that he TiVos Larry King every night and calls Larry a Luddite (Larry: "What's a Luddite?") in the same breath. He also talks about how he made Pottery Barn angry.

powell1. In the late "˜50s, Powell was posted in Gelnhausen, Germany. They now have a street named after him: "General-Colin-Powell-Straße".

2. If you have ever noticed a red wagon pin on his lapel, it's not just a whimsical style choice "“ it's the logo of his organization, America's Promise. It's a charitable organization with the goal of helping children in the U.S. succeed in various fields.

3. When Powell was in Vietnam, he fell victim to a punji stick booby trap. He was leading his unit when his right leg fell into a shallow hole; his foot was pierced by the stick. The simple trap is a stick whittled razor-sharp, then smeared with animal feces (the intent was to cause infection and fever). The stick was so sharp it went right through his boot and into the bottom of his foot, which had swelled up by the time he got back to camp. It was infected, but he was treated and the wound healed effectively.

4. He served in Germany at the same time as Elvis and met him twice.

He said, "When I met him, he was out in the field just as dirty and tired as the rest of us from doing his job. We were in this wooded area north of Frankfurt and I was driving along in my Jeep and somebody noted that, there he was. When I got out of my Jeep and walked over to him he saluted and what very proper and what struck me was that he looked just like another GI. He was shorter than I expected."

5. As a member of the ROTC, Powell joined the Pershing Rifles, a fraternity and drill team famous for their precision routines. Even after he achieved great success in the military, he kept a pen set that he had won in a competition on his desk.

6. Speaking of the ROTC, very few generals have come from there (as opposed to a military academy). Powell was also the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ever come out of the ROTC.

7. When he was in his teens, Powell got a job at a baby furniture store. They had just gotten in a bunch of cribs and grabbed the first kid on the street to see if he would help out for a little extra cash. It was Colin Powell, and he did such a great job that they hired him for 75 cents an hour. While there, he picked up some Yiddish used by the shopowners and drops it into his speeches from time to time.

8. His parents were immigrants from Jamaica "“ they settled in Harlem in 1937 and later moved to the South Bronx.

9. He loves TiVo.

10. His bachelor's degree from City College of New York was in geology. And he wasn't a great student "“ he gave a commencement address at Marymount University in 2006 and admitted that he had a "C" average.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
iStock
iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
iStock
iStock

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios