All of the information in the following posts was gathered from Wikipedia.
Although Wikipedia might not be the most accurate reference source, it is certainly the largest and most popular. (It is worth noting, however, that the Wikipedia page about Wikipedia says, “A 2005 investigation in Nature showed that the 42 science articles they compared came close to the level of accuracy of Encyclopedia Britannica.”) The free encyclopedia offers a wealth of information that exceeds all others. With the hope of shedding some light on the interesting but dusty corners of the Wiki-universe, we humbly offer one Wikipedia page per week for your perusing pleasure. The more you know…
May 14: Reuben Sandwich
You haven’t had a Reuben until you’ve had a good Reuben: Grilled rye bread draped in corned beef and melted Swiss cheese with a sprinkle — or a heap — of sauerkraut. Add on a drizzle of Russian or thousand island dressing, and you’re in heaven.
While sauerkraut may make you think German food, the Reuben was actually born in the lobby of a hotel in Omaha. It’s said Reuben Kulakofsky, a Lithuanian grocer, created the Reuben, but it’s possible Kulakofsky’s poker buddies — who played weekly in the Blackstone Hotel lobby — had a say as well. The sandwich became famous in the 1920s when the hotel owner, also a poker buddy, put it on the lunch menu.
Other theories say a German-born New Yorker named Arnold Reuben may have had something to do with it. He owned Reuben’s Delicatessen, a “once-famous, now defunct” restaurant that first featured a “Reuben special” in 1914.
But let’s go with the Lithuanian, poker-playing grocer from Omaha.
Variations of the Reuben include the Ishmael sandwich (less corned beef, more donkey meat), the West Coast Reuben (no dressing, just Dijon mustard), and the Rachel (coleslaw instead of sauerkraut, pastrami instead of corned beef.)
I personally recommend the Rachel.
May 7: Superior (proposed U.S. state)
While we may not be adding a 51st star to the American flag any time soon, it’s not out of the question. And no, I’m not talking about Puerto Rico or Washington D.C., although those are possible 51st states as well. I’m thinking a little closer to home.
Yoopers know what I’m talking about. On a number of occasions, dating back to 1858, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (U.P.) and various parts of northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota have tried to secede from their respective states and form a new state of their own. The potential state has been called Superior, Ontonagon or North Michigan. Thomas Jefferson once proposed the region be called Sylvania.
Encouraged to secede by political and cultural differences, as well as geographic separation, Yoopers and the surrounding Midwesterners believed the state capitals — located in the southern half of the states — ignored the Superior region’s problems. They hoped their secession would bring the northern regions more political influence and fiscal assistance. Secession is unlikely, however, because the northern regions rely heavily on financial support provided by the lower parts of the state.
The U.P. wasn’t the first Midwestern state to consider division. The more-typically Republican southern half of Illinois has proposed Cook County — including Chicago — form its own state. This is likely an attempt to end the democratic dominance in Illinois state politics.
April 30: Adrianne Wadewitz
Adrianne Wadewitz, an influential Wikipedia editor and Omaha native, died April 8 from head injuries sustained a week earlier in a rock climbing accident. The prolific Wikipedian — as regular Wikipedia contributors are called — fell 15-to-20 feet when her anchor failed while rappelling a rock formation in Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California. Wadewitz, 37, said rock climbing created “a new narrative about herself, beyond that of a bookish, piano-playing Wikipedia contributor.”
A scholar of 18th-century British literature, Wiki Education Foundation board member and postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Digital Learning and Research at Occidental College, Wadewitz was dedicated to education, her own and that of others.
“I’ve been a Wikipedian since 2004,” Wadewitz once said. “I contribute because I like helping to create a free, reliable reference work for the entire world. I’m happy to help you learn how to contribute, too, so you can add your knowledge and make Wikipedia better.”
And she would be the one to teach you. Wadewitz made nearly 50,000 edits in her 10 years as a Wikipedian. She is best known for her contributions to articles on female writers and scholars and was a proponent for more female and feminist editors on Wikipedia. She contributed to featured articles on early feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, children’s book writer Mary Martha Sherwood and more.
April 16: Gary Gygax
Dungeons & Dragons is best known as the pastime of the quintessential nerd — D&D players are portrayed as the “epitome of geekdom,” according to the Wikipedia page … and not in a good way. But 40 years after its creation, D&D — the first and most famous modern role-playing game — is still going strong. Just check out the comedy chops of these famous D&D players: Stephen Colbert, Vin Diesel, James Franco, Dan Harmon, Mike Myers, Patton Oswalt, Robin Williams and Rainn Wilson.
D&D continues to make dungeons out of basements and storytellers out of boys; and, as it turns out, the first dungeons and dragons were conjured in Wisconsin.
American game designer and writer Gary Gygax co-created D&D with his partner Dave Arneson in 1974. Gygax is often described as the sole “father of D&D.” D&D grew out of a board game he created in 1971 called Chainmail, a miniatures war game that simulated medieval-era tactical combat. Like D&D, Chainmail allowed for a fantastical twist on history, including systems for wizards and monsters reminiscent of those in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Born in Chicago and raised in Lake Geneva, Wis., Gygax developed a love for fantasy, sci-fi literature and strategy games. He grew up playing pinochle and chess, but also making up strategy games with his toy soldiers. And after nearly 20 years as an insurance underwriter, Gygax co-founded the International Federation of Wargaming and never looked back.
The “father of role-playing games” died in March 2008 in Lake Geneva. He once said, “I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else.”
By 2004, D&D had been played by more than 20 million people, and consumers had spent more than $1 billion on D&D products. The game continues to be played today. Gygax’s games have touched generations of nerds, shaping some of the world’s most creative brains. And to think, D&D came out of a basement in Wisconsin.
April 9: Credit Island
As they say at RAYGUN: the Midwest is “landlocked and loaded.” But let’s get something straight — we have more than just amber waves of (badass) grain.
We have islands! Seriously.
OK, they aren’t the tropical paradises you might be looking for, but smack in the middle of the United States, they exist. In fact, there’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to them — the Midwestern Isles, if you will. And they’re not just in Michigan and Minnesota, as one might expect. Even Nebraska has one — Goat Island, on the Missouri River. Sorry, Dakotas, no islands for you.
But one little island off the southwest side of Davenport, Iowa is of particular significance. In September 1814 during the War of 1812, Credit Island, a 420-acre mass in the Mississippi River became a battleground.
While crossing the “Mighty Mississippi,” American Major — and, later, the twelfth president of the United States — Zachary Taylor and his U.S. regiment were attacked by a group of British and Native American forces. Led by the famous Sauk warrior, Black Hawk, the British and Sauk allies forced the Americans to retreat to St. Louis.
Most battlefields from 1814 have been destroyed by the construction of streets or buildings. But after more than 200 years, Credit Island still remains un-industrialized. It’s a historic property of Davenport, a park, a battleground and an island with an Iowa address.
April 2: General American
We talk pretty. Wikipedia confirms it.
Although Midwesterners pride ourselves on our un-muddled manner of speaking, we do, in fact, have an accent. It just happens to be the widely accepted English “standard.” General American is most closely related the Midwestern accent. Note this excludes the Northern Midwest. Northern Midwesterners, Michiganders in particular, have their own distinct accent — no matter how much they protest.
“Michiganders believe they are ‘blessed’ with a high degree of linguistic security; when surveyed, they rate their own speech as more correct and more pleasant than that of even their fellow Midwesterners. … Indeed, it is not uncommon to find Michiganders who will claim that the speech of national broadcasters is modeled on their dialect. Even a cursory comparison of the speech of the network news anchors with that of the local news anchors in Detroit will reveal the fallacy of such claims.”
Thanks to broadcaster-extraordinaire and Missouri-native Walter Cronkite, “Newscaster accent” or “television English” as General American is often called, is most similar to the English accent in eastern Nebraska, Iowa, northern Missouri and western Illinois.
Cronkite — and a host of other Midwestern broadcast personalities — set the standard for the television, which set the standard for the world. General American is widely taught in other countries and is the ultimate goal of “accent reduction” classes across the United States.
March 26: Frank Wills (Security Guard)
Frank Wills saved the United States; but nobody knows his name.
Wills, a private security guard at the Watergate complex, discovered the group of burglars in the Democratic National Committee offices. In case you haven’t brushed up on your Watergate history, information gathered from the burglars’ trials brought the scandal to light and eventually let to President Richard Nixon’s impeachment.
While making his rounds, Wills noticed a strip of duct tape covering one of the door latches. He removed the tape and continued his patrol. When he passed by again and the tape had been replaced, Wills called the police.
Soon after his discovery, Wills appeared briefly in the talk show circuit and he later played himself in All the President’s Men. The NAACP honored him for his service, presenting him with a truck. Harry Nilsson dedicated an album to him.
But years later, after fading into anonymity, Wills spent time in jail for shoplifting and working odd jobs, but he spent many years unemployed. He died impoverished in Augusta, Ga. in 2000.