U Gotta Have This – WIF Consumer Corner

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Marketing Campaigns

That Went

Horribly Wrong

Marketing is definitely not a science. They can teach it in school, people can claim to be experts in it, but sometimes even the most successful businesses and brands drop the ball in absolutely stunning ways. A good campaign is a rare thing, and it inspires consumers to go out and consume your products. Most campaigns are perhaps effective but forgettable at the same time. And then a select few are bungled so badly that they’ll be talked about for years to come and used as examples of what you should never, ever do. Like these:

10. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Bomb Scare

It’s a good rule of thumb that if your advertising campaign immediately invokes a police response because people think you placed improvised explosive devices around the city you’ve done something wrong. This was the case in 2007 with a guerrilla marketing campaign for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie in Boston. Turner Broadcasting took responsibility for a series of LED light displays that were placed on buildings depicting the Mooninites characters. For whatever reason, when people saw these with their hastily wired and powered frames, complete with some electrical tape and exposed wiring, they determined it must have been a terror attack in the making.

Word is that it took the intervention of a staffer at the Boston mayor’s office before law enforcement officials even realized what was going on. Because everyone who had fallen under the impression that these were explosives was too old to know what Aqua Teen Hunger Force was, only this young staffer was able to point out that this was a cartoon character everyone was getting so worked up about. The whole debacle was labelled a bomb hoax even though no one was implying there were any bombs anywhere and while it did garner some attention, it was probably not what the producers of the show were hoping for.

9. Miracle Mattress’s 9/11 Nightmare

Every year in September we remember the events of 9/11, and often businesses will do something to commemorate the somber occasion. In 2016, Miracle Mattress in Texas decided that their best method of memorializing the events of September 11th would be to have a twin tower mattress sale, complete with a commercial in which two employees fall backwards into twin towers of mattresses, knocking them over. It was arguably one of the most tone-deaf advertising campaigns in the history of advertising. If there’s one rule that most companies will go by, it’s not to make comedy out of tragic loss of human life, especially for the sake of making a few dollars off of a mattress.

The backlash was fairly severe. The owner of the company issued a statement apologizing for what happened, claiming that the commercial had been done by one single location without his approval. The woman featured in the commercial made a tearful apology video but the damage was clearly done at that point.

8. The McAfrika Mistake

A fresh, tasty pita topped with seasoned beef, cheese, and tomatoes sure does sound tasty, and that’s what McDonald’s thought in the year 2002 when they released it in Norway as the McAfrika. That proved to be a very bad move.

While Norway no doubt had consumers eager to eat the tasty snack, the fact that a terrible famine gripped Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and many other African nations at that very same moment made it a case of utterly abysmal timing.

Despite widespread criticism for being insensitive, McDonald’s did not stop selling the burger and kept it on sale for as long as they’d intended. Their concession was to allow charities to collect for African famine aid at McDonald’s locations at the same time. Proving that McDonald’s was really adamant about digging their heels in, they even re-released the McAfrika six years later to support the Olympics and got the same negative feedback a second time.

7. Toyota Stalker

A good sign that your marketing campaign has gone off the rails is when a court allows a person to proceed with a $10 million lawsuit against your company for cyberstalking. That’s exactly what happened to Toyota with their guerilla “stalking” campaign.

It started when Amber Duick got a random email from a guy named Sebastian Bowler. Amber lived in LA and it seemed that Sebastian was from the UK. He emailed letting her know he was coming to visit. Amber had no idea who he was and just ignored it as spam. The next day he emailed her again, dropping her home address in the email, saying that he was coming to lay low. He was also bringing his pitbull, who had a problem with vomiting.

Sebastian continued sending daily emails to Amber, each one from a location slightly closer to her home. The emails detailed how he was trying to avoid the police as he road-tripped across America (in a Toyota Matrix, of course) to her home. Once she even got an email from a motel where Sebastian had apparently stayed, giving her a bill for a room the man had trashed. As it turns out, it was all a “prank” orchestrated by Toyota.

Toyota claimed Duick had agreed to be a part of an “experience” while she claimed she had no idea this was going to happen to her and suffered serious emotional distress. How did it end? Settled out of court.

6. Spotify’s Murder Doll

You can make a solid argument that this Spotify commercial is actually a really good commercial, but it still got banned in the UK. The commercial features the Camila Cabello song “Havana” and a creepy little doll that apparently murders people whenever the song comes on. It’s filmed in much the same style as a horror movie, with quick flashes of the scary doll and people screaming as it stalks them through a house.

The problem with the ad was that it was deemed to be too scary, which you could argue is a compliment, but it still makes it a fail at the same time. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that while they understood it was a parody of the horror genre, it was still likely to cause undue stress to children who saw it, and so the ad had to be removed.

5. Pepsi’s Harrier Jet

Humor is a tricky thing, and what one person finds funny another person will find offensive. What one person thinks is a joke another may take very seriously. Pepsi learned this the hard way back in 1996.

In 1996, Pepsi ran a campaign where customers could collect Pepsi Points and exchange them for swag like t-shirts or hats. The more Pepsi Points you collected, the better swag you could get. And in their commercial they tossed in a joke about how if you collected seven million Pepsi Points they would hook you up with a Harrier jet. John Leonard thought that sounded like a great deal. The fine print on the contest said that you could buy Pepsi Points for just $0.10 a piece without any purchase required of Pepsi products. That meant a Harrier jet was only going to set you back $700,000.

While Pepsi obviously meant this as a joke, assuming no one would ever actually collect seven million Pepsi Points, Leonard figured this was a sound investment because the Harrier jet normally came with a price tag of about $23 million at the time. So the 21-year-old found five investors to front him $700,000 and he sent it off to Pepsi to await his jet. Obviously this didn’t work out and a lawsuit came of it, which Pepsi ended up winning after a judge decided that no reasonable person could have believed Pepsi was going to hand over a multimillion-dollar machine of war in exchange for buying soft drinks. Still, they learned their lesson and when they ran the campaign later on they changed it from seven million points to 700 million points.

4. IKEA’s Pee Coupon

Everyone likes a coupon, and it’s hard to think of new ways to innovate getting those to customers. Leave it to IKEA to be ahead of the pack. In 2018, the Swedish company rolled out an ad featuring a picture of a crib. The text read “peeing on this ad could change your life.” So right away they clearly did something a little odd here.

The idea behind this was that if you were pregnant, you could get 50% off the crib. How could you prove you were pregnant? The ad doubles as a home pregnancy test, so that if a woman did in fact urinate on it and it proved she was pregnant, then the coupon for the crib would appear. On the one hand, it is very innovative, and on the other hand you have to urinate on it and then bring it to a store and give it to someone. While the ad campaign actually was praised for being so creative, the fact remains that it was literally asking you to bring a urine-soaked advertisement from your home to a store to give to some hapless cashier who would then have to perhaps file it away somewhere.

3. Vitamin Water Gets Offensive

Snapple really pioneered the idea of having cute little phrases inside their bottle caps. Unfortunately, not every company is able to replicate that same idea. Vitamin Water in Canada tried a similar marketing gimmick by printing messages inside of their bottles. In Canada there are two official languages and that means messages would have to be printed in English and in French. This worked out poorly when a customer popped open one of their bottles and found the message “you retard” inside.

The Edmonton woman who opened that particular bottle has a sister with cerebral palsy, which made the insulting message all the worse. She assumed it was some kind of prank, but it turned out to just be a very poorly managed linguistic contest. Coca-Cola, which owns Vitamin Water, had been printing one English word and one French word inside the bottles caps. In French the word “retard” translates as “late.” But when an English-speaking person is getting that message, paired with the English word “you,” there’s no particularly satisfying explanation for why it happens.

2. LifeLock’s Social Security Bungle

Few things are more embarrassing than smugly proclaiming you can do something better than anyone else and immediately learning how wrong you are. The CEO of LifeLock learned this in the hardest and worst way ever.

In 2006, in an effort to show off just how great their personal identity theft security system was, the CEO of LifeLock published his social security number in advertisements. The idea was to show off how utterly secure their system could make you. It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that since then his identity has been stolen at least 13 different times. Adding insult to injury, the company was also slapped with a $12 million lawsuit for false advertising since all that identity theft proved their system did not do what they said it could do.

1. Heineken Gets Called Out for Racism

In 2018 Chance the Rapper took to Twitter to call out a commercial from Heineken that he felt was being explicitly racist. The commercial, which uses the slogan “sometimes lighter is better,” featured a bartender sliding a bottle of Heineken to a woman who looks like she really needs a drink. So far, so good. The problem was when you combine the “sometimes lighter is better” slogan with the visuals in the commercial.

The bartender was light-skinned, the woman who receives the beer is light-skinned, and everyone else is not. The beer slides down the bar past no less than three visibly dark-skinned people before it gets to the woman who drinks it. Now maybe it was only Heineken’s intention to be discussing the shade of the beer, but their casting choices made race become a prominent issue.


U Gotta Have This

WIF Consumer Corner

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #326

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #326

… “Dang, those pesky Dodgers! The Yanks will have trouble beating ‘em in the Series.” Slater is a baseball fan…

The Brooklyn Dodgers In Ebbets Field by Bonnie Siracusa

The Brooklyn Dodgers In Ebbets Field by Bonnie Siracusa

“Carolyn Hanes, you look absolutely wonderful! Why has everyone else aged but you… you don’t look a day over forty,” gushes Joe Slater. He looks right past an obviously invisible Bob Ford.

the-sting-001  “Thanks, Joe, but you look good your own self,” she deflects the niceties, in favor of pressing business. “Have you talked to Cousin Curt this morning?”time-zones-001

“Yes I have and he says that Joyce is due for his visit at 4:30 this afternoon.” He takes his eyes off of Lyn to look at his watch, whose little hand is on the 3 and the big hand is on the seven.

          “My watch is still set to California time,” Lyn laments.

          “It’s three thirty-five,” he converts, roughly.

          “No time to waste, is there? Let’s go, Bob.”  Suddenly visible, her husband is accidentally introduced.

In the heat of a Florida August day, top down and whizzing back to the city, the three are headed for County Jail straightaway. In the background, on the car’s AM radio, the Brooklyn Dodgers are thrashing Philadelphia.

“Dang, those pesky Dodgers! The Yanks will have trouble beating ‘em in the Series.” Slater is a baseball fan.

  “Talk, out by us, is that the Dodgers may be moving.” Bob Ford is too.

Image result for new york baseball giants

New York Baseball Giants

          “Noooo… you’re kidding me?”

          “Los Angeles.”

          “Hey, you’re all right Mr. Ford,” male bonding. “And you can have that Jackie Robinson, he wears me out.”

          “And the Giants?”

          “California can have them too.”

          They will.the-sting-001

          “Boys, boys, can we stay on track here?” True to the specie, the girl gets her way.

           Joe switches the radio to off. “The game is lost anyhow… damned Dodgers.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #326


page 306

Christmas All-Time All-Stars – WIF Pop Culture

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 People Who

Helped Define

Modern Christmas

Christmas-001

Christmas All-time

 

All-Stars

Gotta-Go Go-To Go-There(s) – WIF Travel

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Tourist Destinations

Made Famous

Through Pop Culture

Someone who is enjoying a book, a song, a movie, or a television show is enriching his or her inner world by imagining new physical, intellectual, and emotional possibilities. Sometimes, however, the world a person creates in his or her art isn’t imaginary at all. All of the places on this list are actual places that a tourist could visit. All of them have been popularized because of their associations with certain books, music, movies, and television shows.

10. Graceland (Home Of Elvis Presley)

When the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, bought his Memphis estate, Graceland, in 1957 it was one of the most costly properties in the area. Unable to afford the expense of caring for the estate after Elvis’ death, Elvis’ former wife, Priscilla Presley, opened it to the public in 1982. Now, roughly 600,000 people visit Graceland each year to pay homage to their favorite rock and roll royalty.

Graceland is a tourist destination because of its sociocultural significance. Elvis spent 20 years of his life there. However, Graceland also has artistic significance, as it has served as a muse for successful songwriters. In “Walking In Memphis,” singer/songwriter Marc Cohn sings about seeing the ghost of Elvis Presley while touring Graceland. In “Graceland,” a song from an album of the same name, singer/songwriter Paul Simon sings about the creative and personal redemption he finds while visiting his idol’s home.

9. Lyme Park And Sudbury Hall (Pride And Prejudice)

Mr. Darcy, the hero of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, was mentioned more in 1995 than at any time since 1900. This is partially because when screen and teleplay writer Andrew Davies adapted the novel into a six hour miniseries for the BBC, he put a handsome face to the famous name.

When the novel’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet (played by Jennifer Ehle in the miniseries) tours the estate of Mr. Darcy (played by Colin Firth), whose marriage proposal she has rejected because she thinks him haughty, she realizes that the man she has turned down is very well endowed… with property. His estate, Pemberley, consists of lush woodlands and a stately manor. When they unexpectedly meet at Pemberley, Elizabeth and Darcy better understand both each other and the nature of their own romantic feelings.

The Pemberley of the 1995 miniseries is actually two places. The exterior shots of Pemberley were filmed at Lyme Park in the Peak District in Cheshire. When the cast and crew were ready to film the interior shots for Pemberley, Lyme Park — which is open to the public — was no longer available. The interior shots for Pemberley, including the elegant, long gallery, were shot in Sudbury Hall, an estate in Derbyshire. Tour guide Maddy Hall says that when she takes tourists who are using P and P Tours to Lyme Hall, she doesn’t go inside herself. She wants to keep her vision of Pemberley (literally) intact. Says Hall, “In our minds we think we have seen Jennifer Ehle [as Elizabeth Bennet] looking out of the windows and seeing the lake [on the grounds of Pemberley] – but in fact it’s all down to skillful editing.”

8. Middle-earth (The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy)

While he was writing the The Lord of the Rings, British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien meticulously created the vivid details of Middle-earth, the setting for his trilogy. Tolkien produced a colorful, annotated map of Middle-earth, now housed in the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University. Tolkien also made sketches of his fantasy realm.

When movie director Peter Jackson acquired the rights for his movies based on Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he knew exactly which location would best represent Middle-earth: Jackson’s homeland, New Zealand. Jackson used 150 locations in New Zealand during the making of his movies. Each movie in the trilogy grossed an average of $970 million, and the third film was the highest grossing film for 2003. New Zealand embraces its identity as Middle-earth in its tourism marketing. On its tourism website, it’s called “the perfect Middle-earth.” Many people must see New Zealand’s sloping hills, majestic mountains, and limpid bodies of water as the perfect features for Middle-earth. Roughly 47,000 Tolkien fans per year visit film locations in New Zealand.

7. The Empire State Building (King Kong)

Since it opened in 1931, the Empire State Building has been featured in over 250 movies. One of the building’s earliest scene-stealing cameos was in the 1933 movie King Kong. In the film, the behemoth ape King Kong escapes from an exhibit and kidnaps the character portrayed by Fay Wray, with whom he is smitten. He carries her to the top of the Empire State Building, where she’s rescued when the gorilla is shot repeatedly by airplane gunners.

In 1933, the scene served as an homage to the sociocultural relevance of the (relatively new) Empire State Building. In 2019, the Empire State Building paid an homage to the film. As part of $165 million worth of renovations, designers built a gallery with interactive exhibits on the second floor of the world-famous tower. As visitors walk through a 1930s newsroom, King Kong’s fingers pierce the walls as he dangles from the rooftop, dodging airplanes. In another exhibit, visitors can step into King Kong’s arms.

6. The Iron Throne (Game Of Thrones)

A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy series author George R.R. Martin began writing in 1991, hasn’t been completed yet. The HBO series based on Martin’s books, however, premiered in 2011 and ended in 2019. The series earned 12 Emmy awards for its final season, the most wins for any individual show. The finale was watched by over 13 million viewers, the most viewers for any HBO show, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Since the show was filmed in 10 countries, fans of both the books and the miniseries have many tourist destinations from which to choose. Arguably, the most contested site in the series is King’s Landing, home of the Iron Throne that inspires the brutal succession “game” that gives the series its title. In 2019, HBO hid six Iron Thrones throughout the world and awarded prizes to fans who found them using clues posted on the Game of Thrones Twitter account. The scenes in King’s Landing featuring the “real” Iron Throne — the one built by the show’s set designers — were filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In 2015, the mayor of Dubrovnik claimed HBO was gifting the Iron Throne to his city. HBO denied the mayor’s claim. Dubrovnik does not have the Iron Throne yet, but it does have a museum honoring Game of Thrones.

5. Llanddewi Brefi (Little Britain)

One of the recurring characters on Matt Lucas and David Walliams‘ 2003 BBC sketch comedy television series, Little Britain, is Daffyd (a misspelling of the Welsh “Dafydd”) Thomas, a flamboyant, inexperienced youth who doggedly insists he’s the only gay man in his village of Llanddewi Brefi, Wales.

The sketches are actually shot in Buckinghamshire, England. Still, the popularity of Lucas’ character has strengthened the tourism industry in Llanddewi Brefi. Shop owner Neil Driver, who owns Siop Brefi in partnership with his wife, Glesni, says tourists come to have their photos taken while they’re standing in front of the sign at the town’s entrance, and sometimes they steal the signs. In 2005, Driver told Wales News he had sold roughly 40 shirts with a line from one of Daffyd’s sketches on them to visiting tourists.

4. Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey)

Sam Wallaston, a television critic for the British newspaper The Guardian, called Julian Fellowes’ series Downton Abbey “a posh soap opera [but] a pretty bloody splendid posh soap opera.” The series dramatizes the interpersonal relationships of the Crawley family, the owners of the estate Downton Abbey, and the servants who attend the Crawleys. The Crawleys’ story also intersects with important sociocultural and sociopolitical events in England at the turn of the 20th century.

Highclere Castle is where the interior shots (most notably the dining hall, the entrance room, and the staircase) and the exterior shots for the series were filmed. In a way, Highclere Castle is the titular character, since the show is named for the Crawleys’ estate. The popularity of the show has increased the popularity of Highclere Castle, Downton Abbey’s real world counterpart. George “Geordie” Herbert, the eighth earl of Carnarvon and Lady Fiona Carnarvon, who own Highclere Castle, say the tourism created by the show has assisted them in paying for the castle’s necessary repairs. As of 2015, 1,250 tourists per day visited Highclere Castle. In 2019, Airbnb offered two sweepstakes winners an overnight stay in order to promote the newly released Downton Abbey movie.

3. King’s Cross Station (Harry Potter)

In 2018, author J.K. Rowling’s seven book Harry Potter series became the bestselling book series in history. Rowling’s series has sold over five hundred million copies worldwide. Rowling’s work is appealing — especially for her most devoted fans — partially because of how deftly she depicts Hogwarts, the wizard training school where Harry seeks to master his craft.

In the book, Harry travels to Hogwarts by taking the train at platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station. Boarders must reach the platform by running through a brick wall between platforms nine and ten. At the actual King’s Cross Station, platforms nine and ten are separated by tracks. Luckily for Harry Potter fans, there is still a platform 9 ¾… sort of. A luggage trolley is embedded in a wall in the station concourse. Above the trolley is a sign that says Platform 9 ¾. Tourists may have professional photos taken grasping the trolley. A nearby gift shop offers tourists the option to further personalize the photo by wearing a scarf in the Hogwarts house colors of their choice. The photo and the scarf are available for purchase. King’s Cross Station’s platform 9 ¾ welcomes over one million visitors each year. Rowling, for her part, said she immediately knew she would locate platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station, because it has emotional significance for her. Her parents met on a trolley there.

2. The Hollywood Sign

In 1923, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler invested in an upscale housing development. The housing development was called Hollywoodland. In order to advertise, Chandler bought 45-foot high white letters that spelled out the name of his development, located on the south side of Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills. He anchored the letters to telephone poles, and attached a total of 4,000 illuminated lights to his lettering.

The word “land” was removed from the sign in 1949, long after Hollywoodland had gone out of business. The sign has received regular maintenance checks since the 1970s, and its sociocultural significance continues to be confirmed. The Hollywood sign, or at least a studio set replica of it, has appeared in over a dozen movies.

1. Abbey Road (The Beatles)

When rock and roll’s most famous quartet, The Beatles, crossed Abbey Road in the cover photo for their 1969 album of the same name, they elevated the significance of their recording studio, Abbey Road Studios. Now linked inextricably with the success of a band ranked Number One in the 2010 Rolling Stone list “100 Greatest Artists,” Abbey Road is a symbolic home for any musical artist who desires creative freedom.

Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, and Adele, for example, have recently recorded at Abbey Road Studios. While Abbey Road Studios isn’t open for tours, Abbey Road Crossing — the crossing on The Beatles’ album cover — is usually crowded with tourists taking photographs.


Gotta-Go Go-To Go-There(s)

WIF Travel

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #215

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #215

…California is so different from New York on the 7th of October when fall is firmly entrenched in the East…

Silent Movie Subtitle-001

As the convoy containing her husband limps into New York, Judith Eastman has already shot four scenes in four days. By all accounts, she is doing a credible, if not inspired job. The majority of her scenes are with Mary/Rebecca, providing for a comfort zone, for a stranger in a strange land.

Silent Movie Subtitle-001  California is so different from New York. It is the 7th of October; fall is firmly entrenched in the East, when a sixty degree day is a treat. In Los Angeles people wear heavy jackets when it’s sixty degrees. Back in Rochester, you are considered flaky if you don’t dress like a normal person and have a full-time job; there are Californians who don’t wear shoes, do wear tropical shirts and do nothing but surf the waves of the Pacific Ocean all day.

The remainder of Judith’s scenes is shot with Harry Langdon, someone she considers a boorish lout, who gives her no help whatsoever and seems to take great pleasure in embarrassing her. But his spiteful actions come to a screeching halt, when Mary catches him in the act, calling Judith names behind her back. From then on, Harry sticks to playing the role of Mr. Adam Ladd.

     Judith will never find out that it was Mary who was the cause of a sudden change in the way he treated her. Mary Pickford has great clout in the industry, even rumored to be setting up a consortium of actors and actresses and directors, including D.W. Griffith, matinee idol Douglas Fairbanks and Charley Chaplin. You do not want to mess with little Miss Mary.

Pickford now pauses to watch the following pivotal scene. She hears what the movie going audience will read on the bottom of the screen.

Silent Movie Subtitle-001


Alpha Omega M.D.

Film Reel #9 by The Artwork Factory

Episode #215


page 202

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #211

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #211

…D.W. Griffith, the best cinematizer around, envisions movies with sound. Can you imagine not having to have an orchestra in the theater…

Orchestra Pit

“I am feeling guilty. Harv may be on the western front, knee high in mud or maybe worse.” She does not know that, in fact he is quite safe and the tide of the war has turned for the Allies.

     “Look at it this way: you will be doing your part to boost moral at home. The movies are a wonderful vehicle for people to escape, even if it is only for an hour or so. Rebecca will make the audience think of everything that is sweet and innocent.” Miss Pickford believes that with her whole heart and she is right.

Judith Eastman starts to see the point. Her magazine also entertains, through the pictures she so skillfully takes. They do not just inform. Silent films just happen to be more whimsical. “I think I am so used to the cold-hard facts, that movies seem friv…”

DW Griffith“Frivolous. That’s all right, you can say it.” She has heard that before. “There are people that say movies will never last, just a craze.

“Personally, I believe silent films are just the beginning. D.W. Griffith, the best cinematizer around, envisions movies with sound. Can you imagine not having to have an orchestra in the theater… and no subtitles? People could hear my voice, your voice!”

“Do not be offended, but I will not have long movie career. I have invested too much time in photography and my word, the Journal, to portray school teachers and who knows who. I am not getting any younger, Mary.”

          “Our makeup artists can make me look 15, Judith, and you don’t look a day over 40 without any.” Mary fiddles with Judith’s hair, trying out different of the newest styles. “You may take a liking to being a pampered actress.”

          “Let us not jump the gun. The horse belongs in front of the carriage. Never count your chickens before they hatch, when a lion lays with…”

          “I hate to keep interrupting, but I cannot take any more wisdom and we must get you packed or we or I will miss the next train to Tinsel Town.”

          “I have to tell my brother George where I am going, oh and I must turn over the magazine to the assistant editor. How long will I be gone?”

One month of chumming around and traveling with America’s Sweetheart. Who would have thought?


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #211


page 198

Reliable News Sources – WIF Spotlight

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Reliable Sources

of News

…News the old-fashioned way – Unbiased, accurate and responsible…

When writing about this, we understand that based on their perspectives, some people may disagree partly with this list. However, with so many fake news sites out there, and so much propaganda, it can be useful to go over those news sources best known for holding their standards to something more approaching real and honest journalism. A true journalist isn’t out to change your mind, but rather to tell you what is happening.

 Before we get into the full article, it is also important to point out that just because some news sources may be more reliable than others, does not mean we should ever read the news blindly without thinking it through. All news stories should be put through the process of critical thinking, and analyzed based on the context, and any possible biases – whether intentional or otherwise.
The point being… look beyond your Twitter or Facebook timelines.

10. Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal is a well-known name that can often be very controversial. Like many organizations, it is often accused of bias, but in this case the accusations of bias are in a right leaning direction. Many would say that the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal are very conservative. However, while there is some truth to this, the Wall Street Journal’s news is known for being quite accurate as far as newspapers go, and is still a trusted source of news throughout the country. Some people on the left have a small amount of distrust for it, but overall it is a fairly trusted publication on both sides of the ideological spectrum.

The Wall Street Journal has also proven itself as a news source that most people trust. On Election Day, many sites took down their paywall. However, The Wall Street Journal made the interesting decision to keep theirs up and see if they could increase their subscriptions. Their plan worked, and they actually did see quite a large subscription increase in the days following. Like others on this list, one should be careful to read between the lines when reading political reporting or opinion pieces, but when it comes to the basic news itself, they are a reliable source.

9. New York Times

The New York Times hardly needs any introduction. They are perhaps the most well-known newspaper in the entire world, and have been what many consider a source of journalistic integrity and standards for longer than most people can remember. When many people give examples of a reliable source, the New York Times is often the very first example cited. However, they would be higher on the list if not for the fact that like any newspaper in the world, there will always be a certain level of bias. The New York Times can be relied upon to do their best to fact check and tell the truth, but if you are reading up on politics in particular, it is undeniable that they lean slightly more toward the left.

Most of the public still considers them trustworthy, and the bias is slight enough that it is likely natural bias born from life experience, and not anything particularly intentional, but all political stories from any newspaper should be read carefully understanding any possible biases involved in order to better read between the lines. That said, when the President Elect – now President – of the United States, criticized the New York Times for their coverage of the election, and accused them of bias, the public showed their disagreement with President Trump in that regard by voting with their wallets. Shortly after the election the New York Times had an unprecedented surge in paid subscribers of over 40,000 people. This shows that in a time where we have a glut of fake news, people are turning to one of America’s most trusted new sources to get their information.

8. BBC

When most people ask you for most trustworthy or reliable news sources, the BBC is one of the first you hear about. Known around the world for accurate and reliable reporting, they are even judged well in their own country – where people tend to be most critical about the reliability and accuracy of their news. Of those polled in the UK, 62% believed the BBC to be accurate and reliable as news, and almost half of those polled found them to be unbiased. For a news organization that often has to talk about politics, these are actually fairly good numbers. The issue is with politics in general, and the truth is that apart from a service where all they do is literally report what politicians said and nothing else – something essentially no news network today does – there will always be some amount of bias when talking about politics.

This means that with many news sources, the news itself being reported may be reliable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take any commentary with a grain of salt, or think critically about the way the headline or the story is being presented to you. Remember when watching the news to read between the lines. If a story is political, there is a good chance there is some amount of innate bias involved. If you read the story with the particular bias in mind, it will be easier to get to the heart of the matter.

7. NPR

NPR stands for National Public Radio, and is a non-profit that makes radio programming for hundreds of public radio stations around the United States. Over the years, like everything in radio, they have seen their membership decline. In many ways they have struggled to keep their older audience, and find a way to also bring in new, younger listeners. While people will always drive, and thus there will always be a captive audience for radio, much of NPR’s programming is often seen as rather outdated, and they are often accused of having a liberal bias as well. This accusation of liberal bias is not too surprising, as the public service is often funded by those with a slightly more liberal leaning, but the station itself has never been known to greatly exaggerate or mislead people for political reasons.

Like many news services, when they get into opinions in terms of politics, bias is going to present itself. In this case the bias is going to lean more in a liberal direction. However, this does not mean the news you are being told is untrue or even meant to mislead. Something can be completely true and still be told with an innate bias. It is always important to be informed and read between the lines. However, in their defense NPR has award winning journalists, even some who have been killed in the line of duty bravely reporting on facts in war zones like Iraq. And in a time when people are looking for more accurate, down to earth reporting, with as little bias as humanly possible, NPR has been one of the news organizations to see a recent rise in ratings.

6. Snopes

It may seem strange to see Snopes on this list. They are not a news source, exactly, but they are a watchdog who has, over the years, kept an eye both on news sources and on fake news sources, taking the time to dig into the nitty gritty and find the truth behind urban legends or rumors of all kinds. Their work has been tireless and often unnoticed, but they have been going at it since the early days of the internet. At first they dispelled hoaxes that would appear on email chains, but now they have evolved to taking down hoaxes that appear on social media. Whenever some fake news story is trying to get its legs, Snopes is doing everything they can to cut it off at the knees. They find every little detail and ascertain the real truth, if possible, never worrying about any specific agenda besides truth itself.

This dedication has not gone unnoticed. Facebook has been under fire for the glut of Fake News during the last election cycle that appeared in people’s feeds, and the powers that be at Facebook have decided to do something about it at last. They are going to start checking suspect stories with fact checking groups, and if the story doesn’t pass muster, it will be hidden from being seen in people’s feeds. Snopes, the Associated Press, and a few other trusted fact checkers are working with Facebook to vet stories to make sure that people are not reading lies when they scroll through their Facebook feed. This may sound like a silly issue, but among the millennial generation, an alarming number got most of their election news from Facebook. For this reason, it is very important – especially with how people can accidentally turn their own feed into an echo chamber – that fake news stories are weeded out and removed like the cancer that they are.

5. Reuters

Reuters is not a particularly well known news agency when it comes to the public consciousness. In most polls involving trusted sources of news, it doesn’t even really register. However, most people are still probably familiar with the name Reuters and their presence online has increased greatly in recent years. Many people may even notice that similar to the Associated Press, a lot of news stories actually credit Reuters. This is because the two are actually very similar services. While the Associated Press is more of a non-profit venture, both were originally telegraph wire news services. The idea being that a large network of contacts could use the telegraph service to quickly wire news around the world, so everyone didn’t need a reporter everywhere – as long as one or two telegraph agencies had most everything covered by a journalist or two.

In recent years, just like the Associated Press and the rest of the news services, Reuters has struggled with keeping their business performing as needed. This is why in recent days we have started to see them posting more stories on their own website, instead of simply selling their stories to other news agencies. Unfortunately, they would be higher on the list, but using their own website to market news more directly to the consumer has started to allow opinion to seep more into their news stories – instead of simply wiring facts on the ground to other agencies in need of them.

4. The Economist

The Economist is a publication that has been around for more than 150 years, and despite having a fairly clear political stance in its editorials, has still always had a general air of trustworthiness about it. The Economist is known for having a stance that is quite liberal and calls for a more global economy, a stance that a fairly large chunk of people are not particularly on board with. However, while their editorials do have a clear political tone, they are still known for being clear with the actual facts, and in terms of reporting news are not known for being inaccurate. Part of the fact that they are considered so reliable may be the fact that they have worked hard to keep their editorial style more anonymous than other newspapers, so it seems more like the newspaper itself is speaking, instead of different personalities.

In a bizarre way, this almost helps keep the opinion pieces from becoming a spectacle and overshadowing the basic news reporting, something that has likely helped them remain above the fray when it comes to public trust. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, The Economist is actually the most trusted source in America, if you look at it across both ideological spectrum. Interestingly, the poll lists the second most trusted news source in America as the BBC – also a British news agency.

3. PBS

PBS, which stands for Public Broadcasting Service, is known for being incredibly trustworthy as news, and also for providing excellent programs that entertain children and help them learn. While some may get confused because some programming they see locally on PBS may be made locally and not by PBS itself, the actual organization has an amazing reputation when it comes to being unbiased. For years they have had an independent research poll conducted that finds them at the top of trustworthiness and reliability in terms of news. While this should be taken with a grain of salt because the poll is carried out on the behalf of PBS, you don’t just have to take their word for it.

Other polls commissioned by outside sources have looked at the trustworthiness of news organizations as well, and PBS comes away with the best net rating in terms of trust to distrust. Interestingly, among Republicans, Fox News is the most trusted source, but among Democrats it is the least trusted source – making it perhaps the most controversial news source of all. By contrast, PBS is considered trustworthy by a large amount of respondents from both sides of the ideological spectrum. After all, who wouldn’t trust the people who brought us Mr. Rogers?

2. C-SPAN

For those who aren’t aware, C-SPAN is a public access channel that live streams TV straight from the floor of the House and Senate of the United States. C-SPAN stands for Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network and was created long ago by the cable industry in order to give people a way to keep an eye on the primary source when it comes to the actions of their government. While many people think that the federal government is involved in running C-SPAN, this is really not the case. In certain situations those in charge of proceedings can ask for the camera’s to be shut off, but they in no way have any control beyond that over the running of the network or over what is shown or not.

While it isn’t exactly a news source, C-SPAN is about the most reliable primary source you can ask for when it comes to unbiased political news. If you have ever wondered if what you read in a news report was biased, slanted or outright reported wrong or out of context, you can watch C-Span, or clips from it, and find out the truth for yourself. There is no better way to know exactly what a congressperson said than to watch them on TV and witness with your own eyes and ears exactly what they did and said.

1. The Associated Press

In many cases, the Associated Press basically is the news. They are the non-commentary, no nonsense part of the news whose job it is to have tendrils all over the world, at all times. It isn’t really convenient for a local paper to have a reporter in Iraq covering the war, but they still want to be able to report the facts on the ground to the people reading their paper. They cannot just copy someone else’s story, and they cannot afford to send someone to Iraq. Instead, they buy stories from the Associated Press, which has journalists all over the globe and sells breaking news to roughly 15,000 news outlets around the world.

They have long been known for reliable and accurate reporting, and are not known for having any particular agenda. They are a non-profit agency that works with other non-profit agencies at times, in order to share news as efficiently as possible. And in an era where many news organizations seem to have forgotten that fact checking was a thing it is refreshing that they have a very strong commitment to such, and in a world where news organizations have increasingly become primarily entertainment, a commitment to remaining objective. Nearly every news organization across the spectrum uses stories from the AP, because they find and report the actual news.


Reliable News Sources

– WIF Spotlight

Barf Bags Not Included – WIF Chills and Thrills

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Ridiculously Scary

Theme Park Rides

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If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you probably enjoy going on roller coasters and other high-speed theme park rides. Over the years, park owners have tried to push the envelope to make their rides faster and scarier than ever before in order to attract people to come to pay their admission fee. Sometimes, the attempt to scare the pants off of a crowd may go way too far. These are some of the scariest rides that have ever been built.

10.  The Cannonball Loop

Action Park in Vernon, New Jersey was a perfect encapsulation of what life was like being a kid in the ’80s. If you got hurt, most parents had a “rub some dirt on it” mentality. Action Park was (in)famous for tampering with the rides to increase speed limits, and make it far more exciting than any other park that played by the rules. They earned a reputation of being dangerous enough to fracture bones, and a total of 6 people actually died. Let’s put it this way: this park’s reputation for playing fast and loose with safety was enough to inspire a movie starring Johnny Knoxville. Still, parents kept bringing their kids back every summer anyway.

One of their most dangerous attractions was a water slide called the Cannonball Loop. It was a fully enclosed tube that made you go so fast you did a complete 360 inside of the slide. When the owner of the park first designed the slide, they sent a dummy down and it came out the other end without its head. After a few adjustments, he had to pay park employees $100 to go down the slide, because they were so terrified to even try it.

According to the testimonials, riders would almost get knocked unconscious as their bodies were slammed around inside of this tube that was powered by gravity and a trickle of water from a garden hose. One woman got stuck inside of the top of the loop, so they had to install an escape hatch… because they somehow didn’t even think of that before an incident occurred. Once the authorities at the New Jersey Carnival Amusement Ride Safety Advisory Board caught wind of what was going on, it was eventually shut down in 1996.

9. The Takabisha Roller Coaster in Japan

You know that terrifying feeling of going down an incredibly steep roller coaster, where your stomach suddenly feels like it’s up in your throat, and you feel like your body might fly out of the seat? Well, the one ride that will make you feel this more intensely than anywhere else in the world is the Takabisha roller coaster at Fuji-Q Highland in Japan.

The coaster’s vertical drop is at a 121 degree angle, which makes it the Guinness World Record holder for being the steepest roller coaster in the world. The ride costs $12.50 for the experience, and it only lasts about two minutes, but it just may scare you to the point where you feel like you’ve taken a few years off of your life.

8. The Stratosphere

The Stratosphere Hotel and Casino has your typical entertainment with gambling, drinking, and food. But the thing that makes this casino unique is the fact that it is so incredibly tall, standing 1,149 feet into the air. At the top of the tower, they somehow managed to install several different Thrill Rides. Their “X Scream” coaster is 109 stories high, and it rushes forward at high speeds before the car leans forward to make you feel as if you are about to fall over the tower and into the city below.

Their “Insanity” ride suspends people off of the same building, only this time passengers are strapped into harnesses and spun around in a giant circular contraption that resembles an octopus. There is also a ride called “The Big Shot,” which brings passengers up to the very top of the tower, only to plummet them back down. Last but not least, their “Sky Jump” lets you literally jump off of the side of the building. So, just in case you’ve ever been tempted to try that without actually dying, now you know where to go.

7. The Human Catapult

In the early 2000s, the Middlemoor Water Park in Somerset, England had an attraction called the Human Catapult, also known as the Human Trebuchet. It was exactly what it sounds like: People had to pay a £40 fee for the privilege to be placed inside of a giant medieval style catapult and hurled like a rag doll through the air, with only a net to catch them. The owners of the ride must have known that this was ridiculously dangerous, because every person was given a helmet and neck brace before entering the trebuchet.

However, no one at the park seemed to realized how physics work. Since everyone has a different size and weight, there would therefore never be a predictable trajectory of where they were actually going to land. In 2000, a woman even broke her pelvis after she was flung from the trebuchet. The owners should have taken this as a warning to shut it down, but in 2002, a 19-year old Oxford student named Kostydin Yankov died after landing just a few feet shy of the net.

6. Tower of Terror II

When it was first built in 1997, the Tower of Terror II at the Dream World Theme Park in the Gold Coast of Australia held the record for being the fastest and tallest roller coaster in the world. As you might have guessed, the name of the ride is inspired by the Tower of Terror in Disney Parks, but this Australian version of the ride is far more intense than what you will find in “the most magical place on Earth.” Since it first opened, other rides around the world have beat the Tower of Terror II’s speed record, but it doesn’t make the ride any less terrifying.

Park guests begin the ride inside of a tunnel before they are hurled backward going 100 MPH. Once the reach the top of the 38-story tower, they are suspended vertically in the air before being catapulted back down to Earth from a 100 meter vertical freefall. The ride is so intense that you actually experience 3.25 seconds of weightlessness.

5. The Eejanaika Roller Coaster

So apparently the third dimension is not enough, because a trend in the early 2000s was to make “4D” roller coasters. The first one of its kind was called “X2” at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. The ride experience included flamethrowers that spewed flames over the passengers, as if you needed to be even more terrified for your life in that moment. But like with most technology, Japan was like, “Y’know what? We can do it better.”

The Fuji-Q Highland Theme Park in Japan created the the Eejanaika roller coaster, which was a remake of the X2, only everything about it is faster and more puke-inducing. The seats rotate 360 degrees as you’re hurting 78 miles-per-hour down a track. The coaster has four rails instead of the usual two, in order to achieve spin control and stability so that the cars can complete 14 rotations during the course of the ride.

4. The Smiler

Located in the Alton Towers Resort in Staffordshire, England, a roller coaster called “The Smiler”holds the record for the most inversions on any roller coaster. But in 2015, riders’ worst nightmares were realized after there was a horrific crash. An empty car lost control on the ride, and passengers crashed into it going over 90 miles-per-hour. CCTV footage captured the entire incident on video, so there was no denying that this was caused by negligence.

Thankfully no one was killed, but five of the passengers now have injuries that are going to affect them for the rest of their lives. Two of those people even had to have their legs amputated. While the others were lucky enough to not have been seriously injured, they still have PTSD and psychological trauma from the crash. Alton Towers was taken to court and forced to pay millions in fines for their mistakes. However, once they made 30 different adjustments to improve the safety of the way they ran their business, the roller coaster was allowed to re-open once again in 2016, and has been operational ever since.

3. The Giant Canyon Swing

The Giant Canyon Swing is a pendulum that is suspended 1,300 feet above the Colorado River. The attraction only takes up to four passengers at a time, because it has a weight limit totaling 800 pounds. Passengers have to sign a safety waiver, absolving the park of any responsibility the pendulum were to suddenly plummet to their doom. It swings them back and forth at speeds of 50 miles-per-hour, which is just as fast as many roller coasters out there. It’s apparently a great way to see the beautiful scenery of the Colorado River — that is, if you can actually keep your eyes open long enough to witness it.

Apparently, the ride is so scary that even the owner of the park, Steve Beckley, only went on the swing once and never again. And he only did it for the sake of TV cameras, because ABC’s Good Morning America was there to film the opening of the ride. He has refused to go on it again.

2. The Perilous Plunge

The Perilous Plunge was the world’s tallest water slide, located at Knott’s Berry Farm in California. The attraction brought riders up 115 feet before dropping down an incredibly steep decline at 50 miles-per-hour. Visitors to the park raved about how fun the ride was, and it became a new fan favorite.

In 2001, just a year after its opening, a 40-year-old woman fell 100 feet to her death, landing in a shallow pool of water below. Normally, passengers were required to wear a seat belt and a lap bar, and employees were required to check the restraints. However, this woman was on the ride at 10 at night, most likely toward the end of a tired employee’s shift. However, investigators could not determine if this was the fault of the park, or if she had jumped from the car on purpose. However, Knott’s Berry Farm was forced to completely redesign the ride to make it safer, so the Perilous Plunge was allowed to stay operational until finally closing for good in 2012.

1. The Formula Rossa

Last but certainly not least, we have the Formula Rossa ride at the Ferrari World amusement park in Abu Dhabi. That’s right — it’s exactly what it sounds like. If you love the luxury car brand, you will absolutely love touring the Ferrari theme park. Don’t be fooled by the fact that this next roller coaster kind of looks like the Cars Radiator Springs Racer ride in Disneyland.  The Formula Rossa is not just for kids.

This roller coaster is shaped like a fire engine-red Ferrari, and it goes from 0-to-149 miles per hour in just 4.9 seconds. It goes so fast that passengers are required to wear safety goggles to cover their eyes, and the skin on their face starts to push itself back from the sheer force generated by the velocity. It currently holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest roller coaster in the world.


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WIF Chills and Thrills

April Fools’ Day Facts

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April Fools’ Day

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(Sometimes called April Fool’s Day or All Fools’ Day) is celebrated every year on the first day of April as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. The jokes and their victims are known as “April fools”. Hoax stories may be reported by the press and other media on this day and explained on subsequent days. Popular since the 19th century, the day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is well known in India, Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil and the United States.

The earliest recorded association between 1 April and foolishness can be found in Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales (1392). Some writers suggest that the restoration of 1 January as New Year’s Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.

Origins

The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbor is recognized everywhere. Some precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, the Holi festival of India, and the Medieval Feast of Fools.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote,Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. 2 May, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “32 March”, i.e. 1 April. In Chaucer’s tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

In 1508, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April fish”), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on 1 April. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as “Fooles holy day“, the first British reference. On 1 April 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.

In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on 25 March in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on 1 April. Some writers suggest that April Fools’ originated because those who celebrated on 1 January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates. The use of 1 January as New Year’s Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

Reception

The practice of April Fool pranks and hoaxes is controversial. The mixed opinions of critics are epitomized in the reception to the 1957 BBC “Spaghetti-tree hoax“, in reference to which, newspapers were split over whether it was “a great joke or a terrible hoax on the public”.

The positive view is that April Fools’ can be good for one’s health because it encourages “jokes, hoaxes…pranks, [and] belly laughs”, and brings all the benefits of laughter including stress relief and reducing strain on the heart. There are many “best of” April Fools’ Day lists that are compiled in order to showcase the best examples of how the holiday is celebrated. Various April Fools’ campaigns have been praised for their innovation, creativity, writing, and general effort – especially those from the major corporations such as Google and Apple.

The negative view describes April Fools’ hoaxes as “creepy and manipulative”, “rude” and “a little bit nasty”, as well as based on schadenfreude and deceit. When genuine news is published on April Fools’ Day, it is occasionally misinterpreted as a joke—for example, when Google, known to play elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes, announced the launch of Gmail with 1-gigabyte inboxes in 2004, an era when competing webmail services offered 4 MB or less, many dismissed it as a joke outright. On the other hand, sometimes stories intended as jokes are taken seriously. Either way, there can be adverse effects, such as confusion,misinformation, waste of resources (especially when the hoax concerns people in danger), and even legal or commercial consequences.


April Fools’ Day Facts

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Not Your Granddad’s Christmas – WIF Customs and Traditions

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Unusual Christmas

Traditions From

Around the World

In the United States, Christmas is celebrated in ways that are, at least to Americans, fairly banal by now. America and a lot of Western countries with extremely similar traditions (many of which are provide the origin of US traditions) have a Santa Claus figure who brings gifts to the good children, many people go to church, and of course, there’s all the delicious food and time spent with family. However, while these traditions are perfectly enjoyable, many other countries or cultures have Christmas celebrations and traditions that many Americans might find quite zany, but would also likely consider to be a lot of fun.

10. The Japanese Eat KFC On Christmas

In America and many Western countries, Christmas dinner is usually an absolutely ridiculous affair. Aside from a giant turkey being fairly traditional, people will also go to great lengths to make side dish after side dish, sometimes spending the whole day (or even days before) preparing the meal. However, in Japan, things are done a bit differently. Now, people in Japan don’t really celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday (most Japanese people are Shinto), but over the past few decades, they have made up their own Christmas tradition that they are now quite wild for.

It started out in 1970, when the manager of the first KFC in Japan, Takeshi Okawara, heard some Americans talking about how hard it was to get a turkey in Japan for Christmas and how much they missed that, and he had a light bulb moment to bring Americans who had moved to Japan a taste of Christmas. He created what he called, at the time, the KFC Party Barrel, and it took off with the Japanese public — even those who knew little or didn’t care about Christmas. Nowadays, people reserve their KFC Christmas order weeks in advance, and lines on the day of stretch out the door, often reaching 10-times usual sales. These are not your normal KFC boxes, either, as they often contain things like chocolate cake and champagne as well.

9. The American Jewish Tradition Of Eating Chinese And Going To The Movies

In recent years, a meme has been passed around showing a sign written — supposedly by the Chinese Restaurant Association of America — saying they don’t understand why Jewish people eat at Chinese restaurants on Christmas, but that they appreciate the business all the same. While the meme is of dubious veracity, the tradition itself is certainly real. It stretches all the way back to 1899, when Jewish newspapers would criticize Jewish people for eating at Chinese restaurants, for fear of breaking Kosher.

Today, most American Jews do go out for Chinese on Christmas, and often go to see a movie as well. This isn’t because Jewish people have a religious reason that forces them to eat Chinese on Christmas, as the alleged meme suggests, but because it’s the only thing that is ever open. Of course, when it comes to doing something besides eating, you are pretty much just left with going to the movies, which has also become a very common tradition for American Jews. It’s a way for them to not feel entirely left out, or at least stuck inside, on a day where most places shut down.

8. The Catalan Poop Log

Some people may think Mr. Hanky from South Park is bizarre and gross, but oftentimes truth is actually both stranger, and grosser, than fiction. In the Catalan region of Spain, people still celebrate the holidays with a traditional poop log. The log isn’t made out of actual poop — it is made out of wood. However, the log is made up to look kind of like a sentient poop log, and is brought out on the feast of the immaculate conception. Children spend the days up until Christmas Eve ritually “feeding” the log every night, and even go so far as to make sure it’s tucked in with a nice warm blanket.

On Christmas Eve, the children beat the fake poop log with sticks and sing songs about having good bowel movements, before finally removing the blanket to find treats and gifts underneath the log. This is may sound disgusting to most people, but to the people of Catalan, it is a tradition that goes back a long way, and has its roots centered in wishing(s) of good health. Another strange tradition in Catalan is a man named Caganer, who is depicted as a statue of a man squatting and defecating, often by the nativity scene. While some may consider this disrespectful, it is really just a ritual to bring fertility in farming for the next year.

7. The Chinese Sort Of Celebrate Christmas, But In A Very Different Way Than Most Countries

As many people know, China isn’t exactly all that friendly to religious people. While laws restricting religion have relaxed somewhat over the years, it is still not easy to be religious. If you want to join the Communist Party, and have any real power in the country, you have to entirely denounce religion. Christmas is observed by many non-Christians in China, but the observation is much more secular, as China has had a real war on religious celebrations for quite some time.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun time; you just cannot expect it to have the religious solemnity or significance you are used to. Chinese people celebrate it more like a holiday where you go out and spend time with friends, instead of staying at home to be with family like many do on Christmas. In China, Santas will show up at the mall — typically in groups — with several of Santa’s “sisters” instead of the usual elves. The sisters are usually good-looking young women dressed vaguely like American “elves.” Giving away apples on Christmas is also a common tradition, often decorated with various well wishes since the word apple sounds close to the greeting for Christmas Eve in Mandarin.

6. In Venezuela, They Roller Skate To Church On Christmas Day

As a country, Venezuela is going through a rough patch right now, but their economy and government were in a much better position not even that long ago — they’ve recently had a dramatic drop in oil production that’s had an enormous impact on the nation. Despite the toll the oil drop has taken on their economy and political stability, the country still has a certain sort of whimsy about it, and there are some Christmas traditions that will likely live on even in the worst of times.

One of the strangest traditions in Venezuela is that they like to roller skate to church on Christmas Day. In fact, the government is so used to this happening that they close the streets until about 8 a.m. on Christmas morning to make the roads safer for the ridiculous amount of people who go to church as a family… on roller skates. Some of the priests are not particularly enthralled, and will attempt to get their congregations to refrain, but it hasn’t seemed to have slowed down the tradition in the least.

While no one knows what the reason behind the tradition is for sure, some suggest it may be an alternate to sledding or other winter sports often enjoyed around that season, as Venezuela does not have the climate. As well as riding around on roller skates, Venezuelans (if they can afford it) like to repaint their houses before Christmas, and firecrackers and other noisemakers and fireworks are a common sounds and sights on Christmas Day.

5. The Night Of The Radishes Is Celebrated The Day Before Christmas Eve In Oaxaca, Mexico

In Oaxaca, Mexico, every year on December 23 the town celebrates the Night of the Radishes, or Noche de Rabanos. This tradition sounds particularly bizarre, but it has roots (er, no pun intended) in practicality. Merchants back in 1897 were trying to find a way to attract shoppers going to and from church services, and started carving their radishes into crazy shapes, or making radish people or other ornaments. The mayor at the time was so pleased that he decided to make it an official celebration from then on.

People sometimes queue up for very long lines just to see and buy all the various radish sculptures and carvings that people have made. As the years have gone by, the radishes have become increasingly elaborate and large, but it isn’t size that really gets you the prize. The radishes are carved into figurines, or have scenes from the nativity or traditional Mexican culture carved in, and the very best artistic design gets a 12,000 peso prize. Now, these radishes aren’t really meant to be eaten, and go bad pretty quickly since they’ve been carved (you wouldn’t eat a Jack-o-Lantern, after all, right?, but the tradition has now become more about a celebration of art and culture than actual food.

4. La Befana — The Italian Christmas Witch

While some in the United States and other countries celebrate St. Nicholas Day or the Epiphany, only certain countries display particular reverence to them, and very few actually place more importance on either than Christmas. To most countries, these are sort of auxiliary holidays that are part of the “extended Christmas.” However, some countries don’t believe Christmas really ends until the Epiphany, and Italy in particular actually treats more Epiphany with more importance than Christmas itself, at least in terms of gift-giving traditions.

They do have a Santa figure named is Babbo Natale that is starting to catch on a bit more, and he’s pretty similar to most versions of Santa. However, their Christmas Witch, known as “La Befana” and the Epiphany Holiday she holds sway over is still much more popular. Her legend goes that the Three Kings were heading to the infant baby Jesus to give their gifts, and getting others nearby to go with them when she gave an excuse of being busy cleaning up her house. She realized her mistake the next day and rushed, still holding her broom to bring the baby a gift. But alas, it was too late. In order to make up for missing out on giving the newly born savior a gift, she has roamed the Earth ever since on her broom, giving toys to all the good little boys and girls, and coal to all the bad ones.

3. The Story Of “The Boy Who Ate Santa’s Cookies” Is Of Completely Unverifiable Veracity

Another tale that has been passed around is one the internet claims to originate from South Africa, and it tells the story of a boy named Danny who mischievously ate the cookies that were left out for Santa Claus. In the morning, his grandmother was so angry that she beat him to death. Seems a little harsh, but hey, she worked hard on those cookies. Anyway, now parents in South Africa tell this as a cautionary tale to their children so they won’t eat Santa’s cookies. In some versions of the tale, the boy comes back as some kind of ghost in order to haunt children who eat Santa’s cookies.

Now, while it’s an interesting (if horrific) story and definitely something that could be told by parents as a morality tale to their children, we were unable to find any verification online that the story is actually a real South African fable, or if it was made up whole cloth on the internet in order to troll people, or simply to amuse. Regardless, it is an interesting legend, and even if South African parents are not telling this story to their children, it does bring up some amusing questions. If Santa were real, what would he do if he found out you ate his cookies? Would you immediately make the naughty list? And just how naughty would Santa find you to be for your crime? And if you’re from South Africa, please let us now… is this a genuine fable? And do your grandmothers really get that made about cookies?

2. The Tradition In Spain Of Eating 12 Lucky Grapes And Wearing Red Underwear

While Spain has many normal Christmas traditions that, like many Western countries, place a great emphasis on the holiday, they also have some rather strange ones. Now, the strangest, and some of the oldest traditions in Spain technically occur during the New Year’s celebration, shortly after Christmas — but still during the days of Christmas. On Old Night, the day before the New Year, everyone gathers around their TVs or in Puerto De Sol in Madrid, and prepares for the clock tower to count down for the New Year. First, the bell rings four times, and then people wait for another twelve chimes that signal each month of the year. Fair enough, that’s pretty close to what Americans do on New Year’s Eve.

The quirky difference, though, is that on each chime people attempt to eat a grape, and the goal is to eat twelve grapes — seeds and all — before the last chime ends. If you can manage this feat, you will have good luck for the coming year. Another strange part of the tradition involves wearing red underwear under your clothes for luck, and it is said that if you got the underwear from someone else as a gift, it will make you even luckier. And we say if you’re getting red underwear from someone else, chances are you’ve already gotten quite lucky. High five.

While this tradition may seem strange, it’s completely harmless (well, unless you choke on the grapes), and helps everyone ring in the New Year, and enjoy the Christmas Season, in a festive and silly way.

1. The Ukrainian Story Of The Spiderwebs And The Christmas Tree

Ukraine and many of the surrounding areas of Eastern Europe have traditionally had less wealth and prosperity than their neighbors to the west (though that’s been changing a bit in certain countries). In fact, for most people living in Eastern Europe, much of their existence has been marked by a long and unending struggle. For this reason, it probably does not surprise many that the type of Christmas legends to come out of countries like Ukraine are often rather grim. One of the most famous stories from Ukraine tells the story of a spider, and how it saved one family’s Christmas.

In some stories the mother of the family is a widow, and in others there is still a father, but the family — which includes a boy and a girl — is always desperately poor. They are so poor that they cannot afford anything to decorate their Christmas Tree, and they lament it the night before. In order to give them a good Christmas and boost their spirits, a spider in the house hears their plea and overnight, spins webs on the tree in order to beautifully decorate it for the family. When the family wakes up, they go to the tree and it is decorated beyond their dreams. To make things even better, when the sun shines on the tree, the webs turn to silver and gold, and they never need to worry about money again. In some versions the webs turn to precious metals because of the spider, and in other versions because of divine intervention. But in every story, the spider is a benevolent figure trying to help a poor family have at least one good day.


Not Your Granddad’s Christmas –

WIF Customs and Traditions