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Tampico Incident Brings U.S., Mexico to Brink of War

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in August, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 111th installment in the series.

April 9, 1914: Tampico Incident Brings U.S., Mexico to Brink of War

Anyone who expresses amazement that China and Japan might come to blows over a couple of tiny, barren rocks would do well to consider the Tampico Incident, when the United States and Mexico almost went to war over nothing. Well, almost nothing.

By April 1914, the Mexican Revolution had degenerated into a civil war between multiple factions including the beleaguered federal government under Victoriano Huerta, peasant revolutionaries rallying to Emiliano Zapata, and the “Constitutionalists” led by Venustiano Carranza. On the east coast of Mexico, Carranza’s forces were laying siege to the port city of Tampico, in Tamaulipas state, which was held by a smaller force of federal troops as well as some state troops. Meanwhile U.S. President Woodrow Wilson dispatched a small naval force under Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo to protect American citizens and property, including investments in the local oil industry. Although the U.S. government refused to recognize Huerta’s regime, the American forces stayed out of the fight and the situation remained calm—at first. 

On April 9, 1914, the commander of the U.S.S. Dolphin sent nine sailors ashore in a whaleboat to pick up some cans of fuel oil from a warehouse in Tampico, as previously agreed with the Mexican federal commander. However, as the sailors were transferring the cans to the whaleboat, they were stopped by Tamaulipas state troops, who hadn’t been informed of the plan.

After a brief but tense armed standoff (naturally no one on either side spoke the other side’s language) the Mexican state troops arrested the U.S. sailors, including two who were ordered out of the whaleboat at gunpoint—technically, a violation of U.S. sovereignty, as naval vessels are considered national soil. The sailors were then paraded through the streets of Tampico to the headquarters of the federal commander, who recognized the mistake and ordered them released. Following a bit more confusion, and an official complaint by Mayo and the U.S. consul, the sailors were returned to the Dolphin with no harm done.

Or so it seemed. While the Mexican federal commander apologized for the mistake, he balked at Admiral Mayo’s demand that he raise the U.S. flag over Mexican soil for a 21-gun salute—an obvious affront to Mexican national pride—as restitution for the earlier alleged violation of U.S. sovereignty. Now, the seemingly minor incident started to spiral rapidly—and absurdly—out of control.

Back in Washington, D.C., President Wilson, who openly despised Huerta, claimed that the whole incident was part of a “pattern” of hostile and disrespectful behavior by Mexico, and repeated the demand for a salute to the U.S. flag. Huerta, who openly reciprocated Wilson’s feelings, of course refused, and Wilson in turn rejected Huerta’s counter-offer of a simultaneous salute by U.S. and Mexican troops.

Incredibly, the situation was about to get even worse, as Wilson ordered ships from the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific fleets to Mexican waters and asked Congress for permission to occupy a number of Mexico’s east coast ports, including the key city of Veracruz (but oddly enough not Tampico). On April 21, 1914, U.S. Marines landed in Veracruz and cleared Mexican forces from the city over the next few days, at a cost of 19 American and 150 Mexican dead. Meanwhile, on the west coast, U.S. ships made a show of force in the harbor of Mazatlan.

U.S. forces remained in Veracruz until November 1914, when the dispute was finally settled at the Niagara Falls Conference, but the Tampico Incident foreshadowed further American intervention in Mexico during the Punitive Expedition that attempted, unsuccessfully, to capture Pancho Villa from March 1916 to February 1917. Around this time, the continuing tensions seemed to offer Germany an opportunity to distract the U.S. and prevent it from joining the First World War by embroiling it in a war with Mexico instead, leading to the infamous Zimmerman Telegram—a ham-handed covert initiative that ended up backfiring disastrously.

See the previous installment or all entries.

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Pop Culture
The Princess Ride: Here's What a Princess Bride Theme Park Attraction Might Look Like
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MGM

Do you fight the urge to say “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” when introducing yourself? Have you spent the past 30 years mispronouncing the word “marriage”? If so, you may be a diehard fan of The Princess Bride. The cult film (and the book on which it’s based) has inspired board games, merchandise, and countless pop culture references. Now, two theme park designers from Universal have conceived the inconceivable. As Nerdist reports, Jon Plsek and Olivia West have designed the plans for a hypothetical attraction called “The Princess Ride.

Their idea follows the classic river boat ride structure and adds highlights from the movie around each corner. After watching Buttercup and Wesley’s love story unfold, riders are taken past the Cliffs of Insanity, through the Fire Swamp, and into the Pit of Despair. The climax unfolds at Prince Humperdinck’s castle and leads up to the two protagonists riding off into the sunset. The last thing the passengers see is Miracle Max and Valerie waving goodbye saying, “Hope ya had fun stormin’ the castle!”

The ride’s designers make a living turning stories into thrilling attractions. Plsek works as a concept artist for Universal Creative, the group behind Universal’s theme parks, and West works there as a concept writer. While The Princess Ride was just a fun side project for the pair, it isn’t hard to imagine their ride bringing Princess Bride fans to the parks in real life.

For more of Jon Plesk’s concept rides inspired by classics like Dr. Strangelove (1964) and National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), check out his website.

[h/t Nerdist]

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10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
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Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for more than 40 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guardaldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother, Linus, however, is still a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGG.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of whatever holiday they’re celebrating. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

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