Monday, March 7, 2011

Hidden History: How The Pillow Got Its Name

By James J. Hamilton

The pillow.  You lay your head down on one every night when you go to sleep, but do you know how it got its name?  Actually, the pillow was not known by that name until 1847.  Prior to that date, it was known in English as the “feathersack.”  How the feathersack came to be called the pillow is one of the most fascinating untold stories in American history.

Gideon J. Pillow
In 1846, a dispute over the Texas border erupted into war between the United States and Mexico.  One of the most remarkable events of that war involved Gideon J. Pillow, a brigadier general in the United States Army.  Born in Tennessee, Pillow practiced law and served in the state militia before joining the Army at the war's outbreak.  Pillow commanded a division of troops in an army led by General Winfield Scott, which by September 1847 had won a series of engagements and penetrated to within miles of Mexico City.

Standing between the American forces and the Mexican capital was the fortress Chapultepec Castle, which was garrisoned by Mexican troops under General Nicolas Bravo.  On September 13, 1847, the Americans charged Chapultepec Castle in three columns, one of which was led by Brigadier General Pillow.  Initially impeded by the Mexican artillery, the Americans were aided by the arrival of ladders that helped them scale the walls.  While a brigade of troops under James Shields advanced on the fortress from the north, Pillow’s division gained momentum and advanced from south.  Caught between two fronts, the main part of the Mexican army under General Bravo began to retreat to Mexico City, but a small group of soldiers under Lieutenant Juan de la Barrera refused to leave its post and continued to defend the fortress. 
The Battle of Chapultepec
Though in a hopeless position, Barrera refused to raise the white flag.  Instead, he sent a message to the American lines boldly stating that he would surrender his forces only if an American officer could defeat him in single combat.  Eager to avoid the casualties that would result from a prolonged siege of the fortress, Pillow immediately sent word to Barrera that he accepted the challenge.  The two officers met outside the fortress, and Barrera invited Pillow to choose the weapon they would use. 

In a surprise move that would reverberate throughout history, Pillow chose the feathersack.  Though dumbfounded by Pillow’s choice, Barrera acquiesced and ordered that two feathersacks be brought from inside the fortress.

Armed with their feathersacks, the two officers squared off as their men cheered them on.  Upon the signal of a pistol fired into the air, the duel began.  Pillow quickly gained the upper hand, wielding his feathersack with expert skill and overwhelming Barrera with a barrage of blows.  But Barrera soon struck back and connected with a vicious feathersack strike to Pillow’s jaw.  With Pillow momentarily stunned, Barrera twirled his feathersack above his head, winding up for a finishing blow.  When he swung, however, Pillow suddenly ducked.  With Barrera off balance, Pillow delivered a quick strike to the chest.  Barrera stumbled and fell to the ground, whereupon Pillow beat him continuously with the feathersack until he cried out in submission. 

Following Pillow’s heroic victory, Barrera and his men surrendered. The Americans subsequently released the captives, but only after Barrera had been tarred and feathered with the feathers from the very feathersacks that had been used in the duel.  After capturing the fortress at Chapultepec, the Americans would soon go on to take Mexico City and win the war. 

President James K. Polk
Thrilled with Pillow’s valiant efforts in the service of his country, President James K. Polk promoted him to major general and issued a proclamation declaring that the feathersack would henceforth be known as the “pillow.”  From that day forward, young children would forestall their bedtimes by joyfully reenacting the epic duel between Pillow and Barrera in games known as “pillow fights.”     

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Oscar Recap

By James J. Hamilton

For those of you who missed the Oscars on Sunday (and for those of you who blacked out pregaming the red carpet), here’s a recap: 

Determines dream vs. reality, not what
shitty Hanukkah present you're getting
Inception won awards for Cinematography, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing.  It also won for Best Performance By A Top In A Supporting Role, and has the distinction of being the first non-Jewish top to win in that category. 

Inception also edged out Shutter Island in the category of Best Picture In Which A Character Played By Leonardo DiCaprio Ends Up Living In A Fantasy World Rather Than Facing The Truth About His Dead Wife And His Children.  Spoiler alert:  If you haven’t seen those two movies, you shouldn’t have read that sentence.

The Social Network won for Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Original Score.  The score’s composer, Trent Reznor, has the distinction of being the first Best Score Oscar winner to have previously written a song containing the lyrics “fist fuck.”  Suck on that, John Williams. 

Trent Reznor:
Wants to fuck you like an animal
Justin Timberlake’s performance in The Social Network won for Best Performance By A Former Member Of Nsync, which was a no-brainer because the other members of Nsync are either working at grocery stores or doing gay porn. 

Jesse Eisenberg didn’t win Best Actor, but his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg won awards for Character Who Most Deserved An Atomic Wedgie and for Performance Most Likely To Cause Someone To Donate 100 Million Dollars To Charity To Rehabilitate His Image.

True Grit won for Most Likely To Cause Inappropriate Thoughts About A Fourteen Year Old Girl.

Toy Story 3 won for Best Animated Feature, as well as Animated Feature Most Likely To Cause Grown Men To Bite Their Own Tongues Until They Bleed Trying Not To Cry In Front Of The Person They Came To The Movies With But Then Ending Up Crying Anyway.

Robert De Niro’s performance in Little Fockers won the award for You Should Seriously Just Retire From Movies Unless And Until Scorsese Wants To Work With You Again.

The Fighter took home some awards, including Mark Wahlberg’s win for Leading Actor Most Upstaged By His Supporting Cast.  He really deserved it.  Christian Bale won Best Supporting Actor and Melissa Leo won Best Supporting Actress, as well as Best Fucking Acceptance Speech.  You probably didn’t even know they give out awards for acceptance speeches, but they do. 
"I'm the one who's fighting!  Not you, not you, and not you!
Although, to be fair, you are the ones who are making this movie good."

They also give out awards to the best presenters.  Kirk Douglas won the award for Presenter I Was Shocked To Learn Is Still Alive.  Mila Kunis won for Presenter Who Gave Me A Boner. 

Fuck yeah
And while Mila wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Black Swan, she did receive an honorary award for Outstanding Achievement In Going Down On Natalie Portman.  She certainly earned it.  They had me watching that movie Pee Wee Herman style in the theater. 

Oh man, how I would’ve liked to have been the director filming that lesbian sex scene.  It would’ve been awesome:  “Okay, ladies.  I know this is awkward for you.  And the first 45 takes were good, but I feel like we’re not quite there yet.  Let’s do this a couple dozen more times, okay?  Alright now, Mila, this time I want you to spit on her asshole, give that a try, and... Natalie, why are you crying?  Just trust me.  You’re going to win a fucking Oscar for this.”  Which she did.  And the film of course won the award for Best Girl On Girl Action. 

Darren Aronofsky to the world:
"You're welcome"
Annette Benning and Julianne Moore from The Kids Are Alright won the award for Girl On Girl Action That Might Have Been Okay Twenty Years Ago But Now Is Just Gross, while Black Swan won for Girl On Girl Action That Would Have Been Illegal And Wildly Inappropriate Twenty Years Ago But Now Is Just Fucking Awesome.  Although judging by his pedophile mustache, Black Swan’s director Darren Aronofsky wouldn’t have had a problem with it. 

I for one think it’s pretty great that the Academy is now dedicating multiple awards to girl on girl action.  That’s really why we go to the movies nowadays, isn’t it?

The King’s Speech won Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Picture.  It also won the award for Least Conducive To Ridicule, because I couldn’t think of any jokes about it.

Finally, the hosts of the show:  How did Anne Hathaway and James Franco stack up against the other hosts in the show’s history?  I don’t know, but they certainly moved to the top of my list as the pair of hosts I would most like to see make a sex tape together.  They edged out my previous favorites, last year’s hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.  Their sex tape would’ve been hilarious:  A pornography of errors.

Until next year…

James J. Hamilton's Inaugural Blog Post

And now the moment you've all been waiting for:  James J. Hamilton has a blog!

Creatively titled "James J. Hamilton's Blog," this blog will serve as an outlet for James J. Hamilton's sick and twisted thoughts and will be a mouthpiece for his 2020 presidential campaign as well as his ongoing campaign to criminalize the common cold.

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