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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - X


The word “Xanadu” has fascinated me ever since I first heard the title of the 1980 film starring Olivia Newton-John.  For the most part, the name is a noun, a place, to be exact. And typically a very nice place, at that. For instance, a palace in an 1816 poem, a mansion featured in the 1941 film “Citizen Kane,” or the one owned – and named – by Bill Gates. There is the Xanadu Beach Resort in the Grand Bahamas, and a highly reflective area on the leading hemisphere of Saturn’s moon (Titan) also bears the name Xanadu.
In Mayan mythology, Xibalba is “a place of fear” and considered the ultimate underworld ruled by the 16th century Maya Death Gods and their helpers. One entrance to Xibalba was reputed to be a cave in central Guatemala, another in nearby Belize. Still, others believed that the Milky Way was a more direct route to (cosmic?) Xibalba. No matter the chosen path, willing visitors may have been hard to come by as long as the Twelve Lords of Xibalba, with names like “Flying Scab” and “Sweeping Demon,” were anxious greeters at the underworld gate.
The earliest citation of the term: “X Marks the Spot” is in a letter written by Maria Edgeworth in 1813. The phrase was often used in romantic pirate stories denoting hidden treasure marked on a map.
Thought to have originated in the late 1500s, the phrase X Factor means an outstanding or extraordinary ability, a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome, or of any unpredictable and great influence.
Inspired by the likes of Twilight Zone and Night Stalker, X-Files is an American science fiction television series, involving investigations of extraterrestrial and paranormal activity. The show aired between 1993 and 2002. While not exactly in the historic category – yet, several iconic items from the show have been placed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. And the eerie theme sound heard at the start of every show came as a pleasant surprise to even the composer, Mark Snow, when in frustration he put his arm on the keyboard, turning on the delay effect which produced the iconic echo.

Xcaret, Mexico


  1. Hi, diedre!

    Happy "X" Day, dear friend!

    I suppose we can agree that X words usually imply secrecy, mystery or the unknown.

    Xanadu might be the name typically given to a very nice place, but the film itself was not well received by critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the disco flick received a low 25% approval rating:

    "Critics Consensus - Not even spandex and over-the-top musical numbers can save Xanadu from questionable acting, unimpressive effects, and a story unencumbered by logic."

    Speaking of X words and names (and disco), in 1983 I took my girlfriend to a trendy New York City disco called Xenon.

    In 1956 my big brother took me to see the sci-fi horror movie X the Unknown. "A radioactive, mud-like creature terrorizes a Scottish village." To me that's a lot more fun than disco dancing on roller skates. :)

    In 1963 a friend and I went to see Ray Milland in Roger Corman's sci-fi horror film X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes.

    << Xibalba is “a place of fear” and considered the ultimate underworld ruled by the 16th century Maya Death Gods and their helpers. >>

    Nice place to visit... but I wouldn't wanna live there. :)

    The Milky Way might have been a more direct route to (cosmic?) Xibalba, but eating too many Milky Ways is a direct route to tooth decay. :)

    I am probably one of the few people who never got into the X-Files TV series, but I was a regular viewer of the other two series you mentioned, The Twilight Zone and Night Stalker. Thanks for telling me how a new sound effect was discovered by accident and became a key part of the theme for that hit TV show. It has also happened in the making of hit records, "The Big Hurt" being a good example.

    X Marks the Spot. We are only a hop, skip and a jump away from the A to Z finish line. See you tomorrow, dear friend diedre!

    1. Hi Shady!

      I don't know, Xrays are rather revealing ;-)

      Now I'm curious about "The Big Hurt"

      Thanks for being such an X-ceptional coach, my friend!

  2. The X-Files theme song came as a mistake? Eerie!

    1. Hi Alex!

      Pretty cool, huh? I don't know how you'd fact check it, but who would fib about an eerie thing like that? ;-)


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