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Chloe Effron

25 Enchanting Facts About New Mexico

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Compared to some of the states in the nation, New Mexico is a relatively young territory: It wasn’t officially recognized by President William Taft until 1912. But the culture of the southwestern landscape has made a tremendous impact on the rest of the world. Check out some facts on its Aztec origins, its unlikely exports, and how Smokey Bear got his start.

1. It isn’t really named after Mexico. New Mexico was coined in 1563 by Don Francisco de Ibarra, a governor of a Mexican province who thought the Indian people he saw in the territory reminded him of Aztecs—a discovery he later messaged as a kind of “new Mexico.” Mexico didn’t become known as Mexico until it dropped the New Spain label in 1821.

2. They were once invaded by the United States. President James Polk felt California, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona should be part of his territory. Polk was initially nice about it, offering to buy the land, but when he was rejected, he ordered military forces to seize it by force in 1846. By 1848, Mexico had lost those states, which amounted to half of its property, to Polk’s aggression.

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3. Infamous outlaw Billy the Kid was shot and buried in Fort Sumner in 1881. When he wasn’t busy working as a ranch hand, the man born Henry McCarty was reputed to have killed 27 people. A museum in the town features some of his original possessions, including a lock of his hair. 

4. It has its own Las Vegas. In 1900, the city on the Santa Fe trail was the largest in New Mexico, with a series of Old West legends like Pat Garrett and Doc Holliday passing through. Some of the original architecture remains for tourists.

5. People weren’t really sure what happened on July 16, 1945, the day the government detonated the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos: they were told it was an ammunitions explosion. While the engineering feat was later celebrated, some believe the resulting radiation caused health problems for nearby residents. 

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6. The Taos Pueblo building is thought to be the oldest continuously-inhabited structure in the world. Erected sometime between 1000 and 1450 A.D., the adobe walls were made from soil, water, and straw and are consistently replenished with mud to keep them supported. More than 150 families call it home.  

7. The Navajo people were instrumental in helping the Allies win World War II. Natives of New Mexico, they were recruited for their unwritten language—it has no alphabet or symbols. Virtually impossible to decipher without being raised learning it, Navajo soldiers were able to relay strategies, issue supply requests, and forward other key messages for the Marines without their “code” ever being cracked by enemy forces.

8. It wasn’t big on boxing. After a series of prizefights took place that drew negative press attention for their perceived brutality, New Mexico Governor William Thornton rallied fellow territories Texas and Arizona in banning bouts in 1896. When it became a state 16 years later, fighting resumed. 

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9. It’s home to what entertainer Will Rogers once referred to as the Grand Canyon with a roof. Carlsbad Caverns was water-formed more than four million years ago, with three miles open to tourists. One popular attraction: the 250,000 Brazilian bats who hang out at the entrance and then swarm the night skies looking for insects. Their voluminous droppings were once shipped out and used as fertilizer for Florida’s citrus groves.

10. The town of Truth or Consequences changed its name to accommodate a publicity stunt. In 1950, the producer of the radio show bearing the same name told listeners he’d broadcast from the first locale to adopt the show’s title. Hot Springs took him up on the offer.

11. Despite its reputation for being a dry slice of desert, New Mexico’s Bandera Fire and Ice Cave offers two extremes. A collapsed tube in the volcano collects rain water that keeps a frosty surface thanks to temperatures that rarely exceed 31 degrees Fahrenheit.

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12. The state bird is no fan of coyotes. The roadrunner received the honor in 1949, and is named for its preference of sprinting up to 15 mph to grab its prey. 

13. They don’t pay their legislators. State lawmakers aren’t granted a salary, but instead receive per diem compensation when the Legislature is in session that averages $16,000 a year. The perk? They receive a pension after 10 years of service, no matter what age they leave office.

14. The southern town of Artesia really looked out for its student population. During the height of Cold War paranoia in 1961, they constructed an elementary school that doubled as a bomb shelter. The entire building was located underground; kids were able to play on the roof at ground level. Despite the fact it had a morgue, the kids were largely oblivious to its secret identity. It closed in 1995 owing to high maintenance costs.

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15. There really was a Smokey Bear, and he was found lost during the Capitan Mountains fire in 1950. The cub tried escaping the fire by climbing a tree; he survived, but received burns that needed treatment by animal conservationists. The resulting press attention led to a new home at the National Zoo, and a name: Smokey Bear. (There’s no “the”—that was added for a 1952 song.)

16.The residents of Taos have a noise problem. Since the 1990s, a “hum,” or faint buzzing, has been identified by several locals. Researchers have not been able to zero in on a possible cause, but it’s not helping real estate sales: some have moved because of the incessant noise.

17. It has an official state question: Red, or Green? The query refers to the state vegetable, the chile, and how ripe it is when served. You can also select option C—Christmas, which is a blend of the two.

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18. They like to do a little effigy-burning. Zozobra, or “Old Man Gloom,” is a 50-foot tall figure made of sticks that’s burned every year in Santa Fe to help onlookers rid themselves of sorrow.  A smaller version is also torched in Aztec.

19. They’re incredibly serious about their hot air balloon rallies. The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta features a variety of creatively-shaped aircraft that makes it look like a Macy’s parade on steroids. The Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta is a more modest affair, with craft launched over a lake.

20. They weren’t huge fans of unfiltered Shakespeare. The state received media attention in 1983 after ordering 400 “sexually explicit” words to be stripped from Romeo and Juliet in copies kept by school libraries.

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21. It helped birth the UFO craze of the 1950s. In 1947, a local found debris from an unidentified craft 75 miles outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Military personnel quickly retrieved it and told media it was a collapsed weather balloon; a skeptical public believed otherwise. The town has since become a popular tourist attraction.

22. It has the can-you-believe-this-is-a-sport angle covered. The World Shovel Race Championships are held every year in Angel Fire: Contestants sit in unmodified snow shovels and slide down a snow-covered hill. The practice began in the 1970s, when ski lift operators would do it for fun. Riders can reach 60 mph.

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23. It’s home to something that resembles another world. The White Sands National Monument sports over 275 square miles of white gypsum sand, which makes it resemble a kind of albino desert landscape. Because there’s hardly any source of water, native animals like the kangaroo rat have evolved to get their hydration from food sources like seeds.

24. It had a more tightly-contested electoral race than Florida in the 2000 presidential elections. While George Bush garnered 537 more votes than Al Gore in the Sunshine State, Gore beat him by 366 votes in New Mexico.

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25. If you find yourself on a road trip, plan on a car wash: Sante Fe has more unpaved roads than any state capital in the nation. Beginning in 2016, the state will lower the default speed limit from 75 miles per hour to 55 on dirt paths. Think of it as more time to enjoy the scenery.

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14 Deep Facts About Valley of the Dolls
The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

Based on Jacqueline Susann's best-selling 1966 novel (which sold more than 30 million copies), Valley of the Dolls was a critically maligned film that somehow managed to gross $50 million when it was released 50 years ago, on December 15, 1967. Both the film and the novel focus on three young women—Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke), Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), and Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins)—who navigate the entertainment industry in both New York City and L.A., but end up getting addicted to barbiturates, a.k.a. “dolls.”

Years after its original release, the film became a so-bad-it’s-good classic about the perils of fame. John Williams received his first of 50 Oscar nominations for composing the score. Mark Robson directed it, and he notoriously fired the booze- and drug-addled Judy Garland, who was cast to play aging actress Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward took over), who was supposedly based on Garland. (Garland died on June 22, 1969 from a barbituate overdose.) Two months after Garland’s sudden demise, the Manson Family murdered the very pregnant Tate in August 1969.

Despite all of the glamour depicted in the movie and novel, Susann said, “Valley of the Dolls showed that a woman in a ranch house with three kids had a better life than what happened up there at the top.” A loose sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls—which was written by Roger Ebert—was released in 1970, but it had little to do with the original. In 1981, a TV movie updated the Dolls. Here are 14 deep facts about the iconic guilty pleasure.

1. JACQUELINE SUSANN DIDN'T LIKE THE MOVIE.

To promote the film, the studio hosted a month-long premiere party on a luxury liner. At a screening in Venice, Susann said the film “appalled” her, according to Parkins. She also thought Hollywood “had ruined her book,” and Susann asked to be taken off the boat. At one point she reportedly told Robson directly that she thought the film was “a piece of sh*t.”

2. BARBARA PARKINS WAS “NERVOUS” TO WORK WITH JUDY GARLAND.

Barbara Parkins had only been working with Judy Garland for two days when the legendary actress was fired for not coming out of her dressing room (and possibly being drunk). “I called up Jackie Susann, who I had become close to—I didn’t call up the director strangely enough—and I said, ‘What do I do? I’m nervous about going on the set with Judy Garland and I might get lost in this scene because she knows how to chew up the screen,’” Parkins told Windy City Times. “She said, ‘Honey, just go in there and enjoy her.’ So I went onto the set and Judy came up to me and wrapped her arms around me and said, ‘Oh, baby, let’s just do this scene,’ and she was wonderful.”

3. WILLIAM TRAVILLA BASED THE FILM'S COSTUMES ON THE WOMEN’S LIKES.

Costume designer William Travilla had to assemble 134 outfits for the four leading actresses. “I didn't have a script so I read the book and then the script once I got one,” he explained of his approach to the film. “I met with the director and producer and asked how they felt about each character and then I met with the girls and asked them what they liked and didn’t like and how they were feeling. Then I sat down with my feelings and captured their feelings, too.”

4. SUSANN THOUGHT GARLAND “GOT RATTLED.”

In an interview with Roger Ebert, Susann offered her thoughts on why Garland was let go. “Everybody keeps asking me why she was fired from the movie, as if it was my fault or something,” she said. “You know what I think went wrong? Here she was, raised in the great tradition of the studio stars, where they make 30 takes of every scene to get it right, and the other girls in the picture were all raised as television actresses. So they’re used to doing it right the first time. Judy just got rattled, that’s all.”

5. PATTY DUKE PARTIALLY BLAMES THE DIRECTOR’S BEHAVIOR FOR GARLAND’S EXIT.

During an event at the Castro Theatre, Duke discussed working with Garland. “The director, who was the meanest son of a bitch I ever met in my life ... the director, he kept this icon, this sparrow, waiting and waiting,” Duke said. “She had to come in at 6:30 in the morning and he wouldn’t even plan to get to her until four in the afternoon. She was very down to earth, so she didn’t mind waiting. The director decided that some guy from some delicatessen on 33rd Street should talk to her, and she crumbled. And she was fired. She shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, in my opinion.”

6. DUKE DIDN’T SING NEELY’S SONGS.

All of Neely’s songs in the movie were dubbed, which disappointed Duke. “I knew I couldn’t sing like a trained singer,” she said. “But I thought it was important for Neely maybe to be pretty good in the beginning but the deterioration should be that raw, nerve-ending kind of the thing. And I couldn’t convince the director. They wanted to do a blanket dubbing. It just doesn’t have the passion I wanted it to have.”

7. GARLAND STOLE ONE OF THE MOVIE'S COSTUMES.

Garland got revenge in “taking” the beaded pantsuit she was supposed to wear in the movie, and she was unabashed about it. “Well, about six months later, Judy’s going to open at the Palace,” Duke said. “I went to opening night at the Palace and out she came in her suit from Valley of the Dolls.”

8. A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE FILM HID THE TITLE.

Fox held a preview screening of the film at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre, but the marquee only read “The Biggest Book of the Year.” “And the film was so campy, everyone roared with laughter,” producer David Brown told Vanity Fair. “One patron was so irate he poured his Coke all over Fox president Dick Zanuck in the lobby. And we knew we had a hit. Why? Because of the size of the audience—the book would bring them in.”

9. IT MARKED RICHARD DREYFUSS'S FILM DEBUT.


Twentieth Century Fox

Richard Dreyfuss made his big-screen debut near the end of Valley of the Dolls, playing an assistant stage manager who knocks on Neely’s door to find her intoxicated. After appearing on several TV shows, this was his first role in a movie, but it was uncredited. That same year, he also had a small role in The Graduate. Dreyfuss told The A.V. Club he was in the best film of 1967 (The Graduate) and the worst (Valley of the Dolls). “But then one day I realized that I had never actually seen Valley of the Dolls all the way through, so I finally did it,” he said. “And I realized that I was in the last 45 seconds of the worst film ever made. And I watched from the beginning with a growing sense of horror. And then I finally heard my line. And I thought, ‘I’ll never work again.’ But I used to make money by betting people about being in the best and worst films of 1967: No one would ever come up with the answer, so I’d make 20 bucks!”

10. THE DIRECTOR DIDN’T DIG TOO DEEP.

In the 2006 documentary Gotta Get Off This Merry Go Round: Sex, Dolls & Showtunes, Barbara Parkins scolded the director for keeping the film’s pill addiction on the surface. “The director never took us aside and said, look this is the effect,” she said. “We didn’t go into depth about it. Now, if you would’ve had a Martin Scorsese come in and direct this film, he would’ve sat you down, he would’ve put you through the whole emotional, physical, mental feeling of what that drug was doing to you. This would’ve been a whole different film. He took us to one, maybe two levels of what it’s like to take pills. The whole thing was to show the bottle and to show the jelly beans kinda going back. That was the important thing for him, not the emotional part.”

11. A STAGE ADAPTATION MADE IT TO OFF-BROADWAY.

In 1995, Los Angeles theater troupe Theatre-A-Go-Go! adapted the movie into a stage play. Kate Flannery, who’d go on to play Meredith Palmer on The Office, portrayed Neely. “Best thing about Valley of the Dolls to make fun of it is to actually just do it,” Flannery said in the Dolls doc. “You don’t need to change anything.” Parkins came to a production and approved of it. Eventually, the play headed to New York in an Off-Broadway version, with Illeana Douglas playing the Jackie Susann reporter role.

12. JACKIE SUSANN BARELY ESCAPED THE MANSON FAMILY.


By 20th Century-Fox - eBayfrontback, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The night the Manson Family murdered Tate, the actress had invited Susann to her home for a dinner party. According to Vanity Fair, Rex Reed came by The Beverly Hills Hotel, where Susann was staying, and they decided to stay in instead of going to Tate’s. The next day Susann heard about the murder, and cried by the pool. A few years later, when Susann was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, she joked her death would’ve been quicker if she had gone to Tate’s that night.

13. PATTY DUKE LEARNED TO EMBRACE THE FILM.

Of all of the characters in the movie, Duke’s Neely is the most over-the-top. “I used to be embarrassed by it," Duke said in a 2003 interview. "I used to say very unkind things about it, and through the years there are so many people who have come to me, or written me, or emailed who love it so, that I figured they all can’t be wrong." She eventually appreciated the camp factor. “I can have fun with that,” she said. “And sometimes when I’m on location, there will be a few people who bring it up, and then we order pizza and rent a VCR and have a Valley night, and it is fabulous.”

14. LEE GRANT DOESN’T THINK IT’S THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE.

In 2000, Grant, Duke, and Parkins reunited on The View. “It’s the best, funniest, worst movie ever made,” Grant stated. She then mentioned how she and Duke made a movie about killer bees called The Swarm. “Valley of the Dolls was like genius compared to it,” Grant said.

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6 Tips From Experts on How to Fake Loving a Gift You Hate
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In this season of holiday giving, it's almost inevitable that you're going to get a gift you just don't like—and nobody wants to hurt another person's feelings when they went to the trouble of buying you a gift. So as you struggle to say thanks for that gaudy scarf from a beloved relative, or that stinky perfume from a well-meaning coworker, we bring you these tips from Jack Brown, a physician and body language expert from New York, and Alicia Sanders, a California-based acting coach with the conservatory program Starting Arts, for how to fake enjoyment—at least until you can exchange your gift at the store.

1. FIND ONE TRUE THING YOU CAN SAY.

Your inner voice may be saying "No!" the moment you peel pack that paper, but there may be a hidden yes inside you somewhere that you can mine for.

Sanders explains that the key to successful acting "is finding the truth in your scene." She encourages her students to tap into a moment when they felt the emotion they are trying to convey, for authenticity. "So you get an ugly sweater with a hideous shape and a terrible image, but you think the color blue is not so bad. You can say, ‘This color blue is so beautiful,' because it's truthful," she explains. The more you can find a real truth to speak from, "the more convincing you can be."

By opening with a grain of truth, you don't set yourself off on a chain of lies. "When you have to start to lie, that's when it's going to show through that you're an inexperienced actor, because you'll be more transparent," Sanders says.

2. WATCH YOUR HAND GESTURES.

However, faking joy runs deeper than just the words you speak. Sanders reminds us to think of what our hands are doing. "If you sit there statically, it feels like you're working too hard," she says.

Your hands can be a telltale giveaway that you don't really like a gift, according to Brown. People experiencing unhappy emotions tend to ball their hands into fists, tuck them against their bodies, or put them in their pockets. "If a person likes what they are getting, their arms and hands are going to go further out from the body, and tend to be more loose and relaxed," he says.

Similarly, we can reveal falsehood by touching our face or head, which often signals lying, anxiety, or discomfort, Brown says. People in these emotional states "tend to touch their face with one hand, and slowly. They might scratch near their eye, right in front of their ear, or their forehead."

Sanders suggests you put a hand on your chest or bring the gift closer to your body as a way of showing that you can stand to have it near you.

3. AVOID GIVING A FAKE SMILE …

Indeed, the gift-giver is most likely going to be looking at your face when they assess your reaction, so this is the canvas upon which you must work your most convincing efforts at false gratitude.

While you may think a bright smile is the perfect way to fake joy, Brown says smiling convincingly when you're feeling the opposite is not as easy. "Most people aren't good at it," he says.

A fake smile is obvious to the onlooker. These usually start at the corners of the mouth—often showing both top and bottom teeth, he points out. A sincere smile almost always just shows your top teeth, and begins more from the mid-mouth. Another giveaway of a fake smile is tension in the mid-face: "If you see someone with mouth tension, where the mouth opening gets smaller, the person's got some anxiety there."

4. … AND USE YOUR EYES.

Smile with your eyes first, Brown advises. "Completely forget about your mouth," Brown instructs. "If you smile with your mouth first, you're absolutely going to mess up."

And be sure to make eye contact, which Sanders says is "crucial to convince someone that you like their present."

But keep in mind that there are degrees of appropriate eye contact if you want to look natural. "If the eye contact is too little or too much, it'll feel like it's not sincere," Brown says. You want to be sure to avoid a stare—which can feel "predatory or romantic," he explains. Instead, make "a kind of little zig-zagging motion that people have when they look around a face."

5. SKIP THE CLICHÉS.

As you unwrap your unwanted gift and have a moment of unpleasant surprise, you may be tempted to reach for the simplest phrase, such as "awesome," which Brown calls "a one-word cliché" that tries to convey a happiness you don't really feel. Brown says this is a no-no, too: "If you use a cliché, your body language will parallel that."

Instead, eliminate canned words and phrases from your repertoire, he urges, "because then you'll think more about what you're going to say."

Aunt Suzie will also notice if your voice is strained or you have to clear your throat before choking out a "thanks." But how do you convincingly soften your tone of voice so that your words sound as authentic as they can?

Back to acting. Sanders suggests mining your own personal happy experiences for honest emotional content; you may be seeing an ugly sweater you'll never wear but thinking of those prized theater tickets you received another year.

Brown, meanwhile, recommends you think of your favorite comedians; they're good at improvisation, and are often laughing or smiling. "When you do that, you're getting yourself in a better emotional state," Brown says. "Or you can think about a funny time in your own personal life."

A mental rehearsal before you get a gift is a good idea too. Brown says you can imagine a gift that this person could realistically have gotten you and draw on the joy of that imagined gift instead.

6. NOW, DO ALL OF THIS AT ONCE.

If you aren't completely overwhelmed yet, keep in mind you must try to get these small communications by your eyes, mouth, hands, language, and tone in alignment with one another. Brown calls this "paralanguage."

"If they're not congruent, if they don't all line up, then you're not going to come across as sincere," Brown says.

If all of this advice has you contorting yourself into a state of confusion, Brown says that if you remember nothing else, just smile with your eyes. You might just fake it until you make it.

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