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Chloe Effron

25 Enchanting Facts About New Mexico

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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.


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. 


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.


Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.


Raw dough.

Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.


Kids trick-or-treating.

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.


The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.


Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.


Kids knocking on a door in costume.

If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.


Sugar skulls with decoration.

While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.


Kids dressed up for Halloween.

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.


Little girl trick-or-treating.

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.


Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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Warner Home Video
11 Thrilling Facts About Dial M for Murder
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Warner Home Video

In 1953 Alfred Hitchcock was looking for a new project after a film he’d been developing fell through. Sensing a need to go back to his safe space of murderous thrillers, he opted to adapt a stage play that had already proved to be a hit on British television. Though he had no particular attachment to the project, Dial M for Murder would ultimately become one of Hitchcock’s best-known—and best-loved—classics.

From the film’s use of 3D to the debut of Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s filmography to a pivotal murder sequence that made the director lose weight from stress, here are 11 facts about Dial M for Murder.


Dial M for Murder is, in terms of locations and number of characters, a relatively sparse film that barely leaves its primary set. This is because it was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, which premiered as a BBC TV special in 1952 and later opened at London’s Westminster Theater and, eventually, Broadway. After seeing the BBC production, producer Sir Alexander Korda purchased the rights to make the film version, and later sold them to Warner Bros. for $75,000.


By 1953, when Dial M for Murder arrived at Warner Bros., Hitchcock was developing a project called The Bramble Bush, the story of a man who steals another man’s passport, only to find out that the original owner is wanted for murder. Hitchcock wrestled with the story for a while, but was never satisfied with it. When Dial M for Murder landed at the studio, Hitchcock knew the play had been a hit, and opted to direct it. As he later told fellow director François Truffaut, he found the film to be “coasting, playing it safe,” as he was already known as a thriller filmmaker.


In the early 1950s, the 3D movie craze was raging, and Warner Bros. was eager to pair it with the fame of Hitchcock. So, the director was ordered to use the process on Dial M for Murder. This meant Hitchcock had to work with the giant cameras necessary for the process, but there was also a trade-off that makes the film fascinating—even in 2D. In order to make the film look appropriately interesting in 3D, Hitchcock added a pit into the floor of the set, so the camera could move at lower angles and captures objects like lamps in the foreground. As a result, the film looks like no other Hitchcock ever shot, particularly for the infamous scissors murder that’s the film's thrilling centerpiece. Unfortunately, by the time Dial M for Murder was released in 1954, the 3D fad was dying out, so the film was shown in 2D at most screenings.


Of all of the iconic blonde stars Hitchcock cast in his films, the most famous is almost undoubtedly Grace Kelly, the actress-turned-princess who first joined him for this film. Hitchcock once described Kelly as a "rare thing in movies ... fit for any leading-lady part,” and it was said he had the easiest working relationship with her of any star. They worked so well together that they went on to make two more films, Rear Window in 1954 and To Catch a Thief in 1955.


Because Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play, the original script had very little in the way of outdoor set pieces. Hitchcock wanted to keep it that way, as he later explained to Truffaut:

“I’ve got a theory on the way they make pictures based on stage plays; they did it with silent pictures, too. Many filmmakers would take a stage play and say, ‘I’m going to make this into a film.’ Then they would begin to ‘open it up.’ In other words, on the stage it was all confined to one set, and the idea was to do something that would take it away from the confined stage setting.”

Hitchcock wanted to keep the confinement intact, so almost all of the action in the film takes place indoors, largely in the Wendices' apartment. This adds to the intimacy and tension.


Hitchcock was always known as a meticulous director obsessed with detail, but on Dial M for Murder he was particularly detail-oriented, in part because the 3D cameras were going to capture objects in a way his other films hadn’t. As a result, he selected all of the objects in the Wendice apartment himself, and even had a giant false telephone dial made for the famous “M” close-up in the title sequence.


Grace Kelly in 'Dial M for Murder' (1954)
Warner Home Video

Hitchcock’s exacting eye also led to an elaborate “color experiment” to portray the psychological condition of Kelly’s character. As the film begins, the colors she wears are all very bright, suggesting a happy life in which she doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. As the film grows darker for her, to the point that she’s framed for murder, the wardrobe grows darker and “more somber,” as Hitchcock put it.


For the scene in which Swann (Anthony Dawson) attempts to murder Margot (Kelly) by strangling her (until she manages to stab him with a pair of scissors), Hitchcock had another exacting wardrobe request. He had an elegant velvet robe made for Kelly, hoping to create interesting textural effects as the lights and shadows played off the fabric while she fought for her life. Kelly reasoned that, since Margot was alone in the apartment (as far as she knew) and was only getting out of bed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t bother to put on a robe.

“I said I wouldn't put on anything at all, that I'd just get up and go to the phone in my nightgown. And [Hitchcock] admitted that was better, and that's the way it was done,” Kelly later recalled.


Dial M for Murder was shot in just 36 days, but the director took special care with one scene in particular: the murder sequence in which Margot stabs Swann with the scissors. Not only was it a key scene in the film, but it was also a moment that required particular care to make the 3D effects work. Hitchcock agonized over the scene to such a degree that he apparently lost 20 pounds during filming.

"This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce—tasteless,” he reportedly said after one take.


Hitchcock became known throughout his career for making cameos in his films, ranging from the very subtle (you can see his silhouette in neon outside the window in Rope) to the more elaborate (missing the bus in the opening sequence of North by Northwest). In Dial M for Murder, his cameo falls somewhere in between. He appears in a class reunion photo in the Wendice apartment, seated at a banquet table among other men.


Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in 'A Perfect Murder' (1998)
Warner Bros.

Dial M for Murder was a film adaptation of a stage play that had also already been adapted for television in Britain, and it proved popular enough that four more adaptations followed. In 1958, NBC broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in which both Anthony Dawson and John Williams returned to play Swann and Chief Inspector Hubbard, respectively. A 1967 ABC television production of the play co-starred Laurence Harvey and Diane Cilento. A television movie starring Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer was produced in 1981, and in 1998 the play served as the inspiration for the film A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow.


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