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.


Barf Bags Not Included –

WIF Chills and Thrills

April Fools’ Day Facts

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April Fools’ Day

Color Me

(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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WIF Holidays

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

Making the World a Better Place – WIF Spotlight

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People That Made

the World

a Better Place

Nowadays, giving to charity has become an almost social experience. With challenges and campaigns like “PuberMe,” the idea of giving has transformed into more of a public domain movement. As a result, the anonymity and personal nature of donating to a cause has lost most of its meaning. There are, however, many people who donate without the public spectacle. Men and women who have made the world a better place without the fanfare. Here are 10 people who made the world a better place, while their actions remained largely hidden from the spotlight…

10. Chuck Feeney

The decision to give away his fortune was easy for Chuck Feeney. When asked about his generous actions, he said, “a man can only wear one pair of pants at a time.” Which, while not technically true, is a lovely sentiment nonetheless. In the 1960s, Feeney made his fortune by setting up duty free shops at airports which soon turned into a booming business. That, coupled with many shrewd investments in technology start-ups, left him with a net worth north of $7 billion. At the age of 85, that number had dwindled down to only $2 million.

Transferring his massive wealth to Atlantic Philanthropies, a collection of several different charities that he had funded, Feeney began giving away his wealth to causes and issues he felt strongly about. In the 1990s, he promised financial support for paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland if they abandoned armed conflict and accepted electoral politics. Feeney also donated to create a public health system in Vietnam as well as to provide anti-retroviral treatment for AIDS victims in South Africa. What makes Feeney’s work so commendable is that it was a business dispute that forced disclosure of his payments to Atlantic Philanthropies.

9. Richard Leroy Walters

There’s very little chance our readers know the name Richard Leroy Walters, and that’s okay. Few even knew him when he was alive. Rita Belle, one of the few who came to know Walters, learned that “he gave up all material things that we think we have to have.” Never married and estranged from his brother, Walters and Belle became friends.

She later discovered that Walters was homeless and sleeping on the grounds of the senior center. Walters would reveal to Belle that he ate at the hospital and used a telephone there or at the center. Despite being homeless, Walters was not poor. He was in fact a millionaire who would, in his will, donate millions to charities including  National Public Radio and the Catholic Church Mission. With his final act, Walters honored his friend. It was clear to Belle that he was an atheist, and she, as you probably guessed, was a Catholic.

8. Ronald Read

Like Richard Walters, Read did not show off his wealth or even give any indication that he was rich at all. The Vermont man was known for wearing a particularly tattered hat around town. A woman knitted him a replacement, fearing that it would not hold up in winter. On another occasion, his meal was paid for by another customer because it was feared he’d be unable to pay.

The truth would only be revealed after his death, when Read left Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and the Brooks Library $4.8 million and $1.2 million, respectively. The donations might seem random, but it was soon revealed that Read would visit the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital frequently for coffee and breakfast. It’s safe to say he paid them back for it.

7. Prince

The iconic artist of hits like “Purple Rain,” “Kiss,” and “When Doves Cry” changed the world in more ways than one. Prince’s death revealed another side of him that he was careful not to publicize: his philanthropy. Van Jones, an environmentalist, was working on George W. Bush’s clean jobs act when he received an anonymous donation check for $50,000. He remembers returning it, but then weeks later getting the same check again. Unwilling to accept a check, at that price, without knowing the sender, he returned it again, only to get a call from a Prince representative.

Jones asked who the sender was, and the representative refused to say, but revealed his favorite color is purple. That’s just one example of Prince’s generosity and the manner in which he displayed it. There are countless others, like his unprompted donation to a senior center in Minnesota, his donations to the victims of the bridge collapse in his home state, and to his support for public schools purchasing musical equipment and a studio to help foster the next great musician. Prince will be missed not only for music, but for his big heart.

6. George Michael

Another musician who doubled as a philanthropist was British singer, songwriter, and record producer George Michael. Although his public life was a matter of national headlines in the UK, he kept his philanthropy under wraps and out of the newspapers. It wasn’t until his death that people came to realize how generous of a man he really was. An employee at a homeless shelter revealed that Michael worked their repeatedly but told employees not to tell anyone of his presence.

His charity also was random and spontaneous. A woman on Deal or No Deal said she needed thousands for IVK treatment. The next day she received a phone call from Michael, who offered to pay for treatment. When a waitress told him of her debt incurred trying to become a nurse, Michael tipped her £5,000. Again, she was sworn to secrecy, only revealing her mystery benefactor after his death. Probably his most generous act was his decision to give royalties from his 1996 number one single Jesus to a Child to the charity to Childline, a free counseling service for young people. Childline’s founder estimates the donation gave millions and saved thousands of lives.

5. Jack MacDonald

Jack MacDonald lived in a small, one bedroom apartment. His clothing had holes in them. In short, he didn’t live the life of a multi-millionaire. MacDonald cared about much much more important things: people. Inheriting his parent’s meat packing business, MacDonald turned his inheritance into more than 180 million dollars through prudent investments.

Throughout his life, he made anonymous donations to hundreds of organization. That continued even in death. A widower without children, MacDonald left his entire fortune to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington Law school, and the Salvation Army.

4. Roberto Clemente

Although Roberto Clemente is well known for what he did on the baseball field, his impact extends far beyond the diamond. Clemente was one of the first Latin American ball players to become a baseball star, and the native of Puerto Rico believed that he had to be a shining example to his country and people. Clemente would host baseball clinics for underprivileged children free of charge, and most notably helped deliver food to communities in need.

Unfortunately, like many of our other cases, his death is a big part of how we’d come to see Clemente’s tremendous character. After a massive earthquake caused devastation in Nicaragua, Clemente organized shipments of aid, but soon realized that corrupt officials were keeping them from reaching the victims. Under the belief that his presence would make a difference, he boarded the next plane to Nicaragua only for it to crash, killing everyone aboard. Clemente lives on in his work, with a community service award named after him in the MLB.

3. Eldon Foote

Sometimes you think you know someone, and they surprise you. There’s no better case of this than the life of Eldon Foote. The lawyer used his background to avoid paying taxes, he abandoned his family for a new romance, and even switched careers to become a marketing executive. Everything about Eldon Foote screamed that he was self-centered and egotistical.

Foote didn’t exactly have an easy life, growing up during the Depression and enlisting in the army during World War II. He returned home and got married, eventually raising five children. However, he became unhappy and not only divorced his wife, but switched careers entirely. He’d grow unhappy again, and after a contentious divorce from his second wife, Foote sold the business and married for the last time. His philanthropy began on a whim. As his hometown prepared to host a massive, international athletics event in 2001, the sports field at the University of Alberta was in dire need of refurbishment. Needing a donation of $2 million, the athletics department approached Foote, a former track athlete. Foote obliged, sending them the full amount. Soon after Foote was diagnosed with cancer, and died only a month later.

His will would reveal that he was leaving the vast majority of his net worth to charitable organizations. Foote would leave 160 million to the Edmonton Community Foundation, the largest donation the organization ever received. Foote’s family was not at all pleased by his decision. They sued, and eventually lost. The impact of Foote’s donation is still being felt in the low income neighborhoods of Edmonton.

2. George Steinbrenner

Brash and bombastic, who knew that Steinbrenner was quietly a philanthropic person? In 1992, when a hurricane laid waste to South Florida, Steinbrenner appeared at the Salvation Army central distribution center in Tampa and simply said, “Put me to work.” Steinbrenner didn’t just sit in the lobby and show his face; he helped load 500 gallons of water into the back of a 20-foot truck. Afterward, he drove six and a half hours to Homestead, and delivered the water to the victims of the hurricane. He did this all without fanfare. No cameras, no press, just Steinbrenner.

Although Steinbrenner was viewed as rash and quick to lose his temper; he was just as quick to help someone in need. He paid the funeral expenses for a family mourning their murdered son, he paid for damaged instruments of a local school band whose band room was vandalized, and when he witnessed a deaf child struggling to get an autograph he purchased the child hearing aids.

1. Julius Rosenwald

It’s a mystery as to why Julius Rosenwald has not become a household name. He didn’t even finish high school, yet he managed to become the chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Company and a life-changing philanthropist. In the early 1900s, Rosenwald gave away $62 million, which would be valued at a billion dollars today.And while the amount donated is important, what makes Rosenwald so special is who he gave the money to.

Nearly all of Rosenwald’s donations went to helping African Americans get a better education by building schools and community centers. As a Jewish man who had been the victim of discrimination, Rosenwald identified with African Americans. He did not help from afar, but was an active voice in these communities. He rallied African American communities to match the funds he had committed to build a school or community center. Their work wasn’t easy, as several schools were burned down, but that didn’t deter Rosenwald or the community. The schools were just built up again.

Rosenwald changed the lives of thousands of black children, and the example he set for his own children would save more lives still. Years later, his children and cousins saved the lives of 300 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. A Rosenwald yet again making the world just a little bit better.


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Famous Symbols

(And What They Really Mean)

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Symbols are meant to stand for something. We see them every day, and without even thinking about them, we know what they mean… for the most part. They make our lives easier and we don’t give them enough credit for it. We don’t even know the origins for most of them, or what they really represent. For some of them, we may even have it completely wrong. We’ll now be taking a look of 10 of these symbols and their intended meaning, their origins, and maybe even some misconceptions we might have about them.

 10. The Heart Symbol

The heart shaped symbol is known throughout the world and it usually stands for love and romance. But why do we instinctively see it as a heart, since the symbol itself doesn’t even come close to its real counterpart? There are several theories of where it may have originated and how it got to where it is today. Firstly, there are some speculations whether the heart symbol may actually stand for some of our private parts, both male and female. If we are to invert the heart and look at it upside down, you can more clearly see where we’re trying to go with this. While this theory might hold some water, there are some older depictions of the symbol that stood for something else. For instance, some believe that the symbol is a representation of ivy leaves, since they both look kind of similar, and the ivy is associated with fidelity.

An even more plausible explanation comes in the form of the now-extinct plant of Silphium. This plant once grew in abundance over a small stretch of the North African coastline. It was acclaimed by both the Greeks and Romans for its medicinal properties, particularly for being a great form of birth control. The Greek colony of Cyrene, located in the area that’s now present-day Libya, became rich because of it and even stamped the plant and its seedpod on its coins. The seedpod depicted on the coins is identical to the heart symbol today. But because of the small distribution of Silphium and the great demand for it, the plant went extinct by the 1st century BC.

The third and final theory comes from the Middle Ages. Based on Aristotle’s writings where he describes the heart as having three chambers and a dent, the 14th century Italian physician Guido da Vigevano made a series of anatomical drawings where he portrayed the heart in this manner. This design grew more popular during the Renaissance with the heart symbol making appearances in religious art. From there it found it’s way in today’s world as a denotation of love and affection.

9. The Yin-Yang

The Yin-Yang symbol is deeply rooted in Chinese philosophy and a key element in the Taoist religion in China. You can find this one everywhere in the world, from T-shirts, tattoos, the South Korean flag, and Taoist temples. Its meaning is as straightforward as it is complex, but we’ll try to be as concise as possible. The concept of yin and yang took off during the 3rd century BC with an increased interest in philosophy. The two sides don’t represent the good and the bad, per se, but rather the two sides of the same coin. Yin can change into Yang and vice versa, with the little dots in the centers of each representing this potential; the seed of the opposite. Yin is the feminine side, shown with things like black, darkness, north, water, transformation, the moon, cold, softness, passivity, introspection, valleys, and it is what gives the spirit to everything.

Yang, on the other hand, stands for light, fire, mountains, warmth, the sun, action, movement, and offers form to all things. Taoism believes in the idea of embracing both of these aspects of life and “go with the flow” as it were, finding the balance in everything. To give you an example of yin and yang put into practice in China, we only need to look at some of the names they gave their settlements. Villages on the sunny side of valleys or mountains have names like Liuyang or Shiyang, whereas those located on the other side have names like Jiangyin.

An interesting fact about the Yin-Yang symbol is that China wasn’t the first place it actually appeared. The oldest example comes from a prehistoric culture located in Eastern Europe, over a territory now part of Moldova, southern Ukraine, and northeastern and central Romania. Known as the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, this society existed between 5,400 and 2,700 BC, and several pottery objects have been discovered with the Yin-Yang as well as the Swastika symbols on them. Now, since they didn’t have a written language, we can’t know whether they saw the symbol the same way as the Chinese, or whether it is a mere coincidence.

8. The Bluetooth Symbol

At first glance, there isn’t any conceivable connection between this wireless technology and an actual blue tooth; nor with the symbol itself. But believe it or not, they are all connected – pun intended. This technology was invented back in 1994 by the Swedish telecom company Ericsson. And in accordance with Sweden’s Viking past, the symbol is made out of two runes pushed together. Firstly there’s the H rune, also known as Hagall, and then there’s the B rune known as Bjarkan. These two put together make the Bluetooth symbol. But what do H and B have to do with Bluetooth, you may ask? Well, they are the initials of Denmark’s first Viking King, Harald Blåtand. And the Swedish word Blåtand means Bluetooth in English.

Harald Blåtand lived from around 910 to 987 AD, and during his lifetime managed to unite (connect) all of the Danish tribes and later take over Norway, ruling over them as king until his death. He is also credited for Christianizing the Danes. He had done it more for political and economic reasons than anything else, so as to avoid invasion by the Holy Roman Empire to the south, as well as to keep their trading relations going. His byname, Bluetooth, is a mystery. Some presume that he may have had a fondness for blackberries that gave his teeth a bluish tone. A more plausible explanation is that Bluetooth was actually a misinterpretation medieval historians and his byname was actually something like “dark chieftain.”

7. The International Flag of Planet Earth

Each mission to space today uses different national flags, depending on which country is funding it. And while this is all fine and good, astronauts, regardless of their country of origin, stand for the planet as a whole, not just that particular country that’s funding them. This is why a flag for planet Earth was designed to be used when we ultimately (theoretically) travel to Mars and colonize the Red Planet. Made out of seven white interlocking rings over a blue field, they are meant to represent all life on Earth. But the symbol itself is much older than this flag and is more commonly known as “The Seed of Life.” Considered to be part of “Sacred Geometry”, a term used to represent universal geometrical patterns often times found in nature, the Seed of Life bears a striking resemblance to a cellular structure during embryonic development.

What’s really interesting about it is the fact that the Seed of Life, as well as the larger Flower of Life, was found throughout many places of the world. The oldest example was discovered in the Temple of Osiris in Abydos, Egypt and is dated back to about 5,000-6,000 years ago. But the design was also used in Buddhist temples in China and Japan, in present-day Turkey, in India, all throughout Europe, in Iraq, and many other places. The Seed of Life also plays an important role in various major religions. In old Slavic religions, the Seed of Life symbol stood for the sun.

6. The Great Seal of the United States

Here is a symbol, or rather a combination of symbols, that have sparked countless conspiracy theories over the years. This is in regard to the Great Seal of the United States. The seal first appeared in 1782 and is used by the government to authenticate certain documents, especially with regard to foreign affairs. But what many don’t know, especially those who’re not US citizens, is that the seal has two sides. Its front side is also the country’s national coat of arms and has served as inspiration for the President’s own seal, as well as other government agencies. The backside, however, is more commonly known from the one dollar bill. In fact, both sides of the seal appear on the reverse of the bill since 1935, but not that many people know that they’re actually two sides of the same thing.

The front, or obverse, is made out of the bald eagle; the country’s national bird. In its beak there’s a scroll inscribed in Latin with the words “one from many”, making a reference to one nation created from 13 colonies. The eagle also holds an olive branch in one of its talons and thirteen arrows in the other. These stand as symbols for power in both peace and war. Next there’s a shield supported by the eagle, which stands for the nation relying on its own virtue. Finally there’s a cloud above the eagle’s head, surrounding 13 stars on a blue field. These denote the US taking its place among the other nations of the world.

 The reverse side is the one with the many conspiracy theories. First there’s the 13-step pyramid with Roman numerals on its base. These stand for the original colonies, and the number 1776, which stands for the year of independence. On the pyramid’s top there’s the Eye of Providence, or the all-seeing eye of God. This symbol, which stands for God watching over mankind, became widespread in Europe during the Renaissance and made frequent appearances in religious art. Its inspiration probably comes from Ancient Egypt with the Eye of Horus. Freemasons also use it in their iconography with the same meaning as the US seal. The first time they used it, however, was in 1797. There’s also a Latin motto at the top, Annuit Coeptis, which means “favor our undertakings”, referring to God aiding the US. And lastly, there’s a scroll underneath the pyramid reading “New Order of the Ages.” This symbolizes 1776 as being the start of a new era for America.

5. Political Animals

While on the subject of American symbols, let’s take a look at the country’s two political “mascots”: the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey. Both appeared during the 19th century, but the donkey was first with Andrew Jackson, the democratic presidential candidate in 1828, who was oftentimes called a “jackass” by his opponents. Knowing how to cleverly turn things around, Jackson used the jackass in his campaign posters. With it, he was able to win the elections and become the first Democratic president in the country’s history. During the 1870s, Thomas Nast, a famous cartoonist, popularized the donkey and made it a symbol for the entire Democratic Party.

Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president in 1861, six years after the party’s creation. But the elephant didn’t start with him, even though “seeing the elephant” was a phrase commonly used by soldiers during his time to mean experiencing combat during the Civil War. In 1874, Thomas Nast made another political illustration entitled “The Third-Term Panic.” This was meant to satirize President Ulysses Grant’s rumored third bid at the presidential seat. In the cartoon, Nast portrayed various newspapers and interest groups as animals, including a scrambling elephant labeled “the Republican vote”, which was shown over a pit partially covered with broken planks called Inflation, Repudiation, Home Rule, and Re-construction. Over the following years, the cartoonist used the elephant to depict the Republican Party several more times, so that by 1880 it had become its symbol. Today the Democrats say the Donkey is smart and brave, while the Republicans say that their Elephant is strong and dignified.

4. The Hammer and Sickle

The Soviet Hammer and Sickle are arguably the most recognizable political symbols, next to only the Nazi Swastika and American Stars and Stripes. And even though their meaning is seemingly straightforward, there may be some hidden messages attached that not even Lenin himself knew about. The obvious symbolism behind them is that they stand for the proletariat (blue collar workers) in the form of the hammer, and the peasantry in the form of the sickle. Together they represented unity and a symbol for the Soviet state. But coming up with the emblem wasn’t as easy as it might seem. The hammer was indeed easier since it was traditionally associated with workers all over Europe. But the sickle was harder, and there were a number of other variations before this one. A hammer with an anvil, a plough and a sword, or a scythe and a wrench were among them.

The intriguing part here is the designer himself, Yevgeny Kamzolkin. He reportedly wasn’t even a communist at heart and was a deeply religious man. He was a member of the Leonardo da Vinci Society and as an artist he was well versed in symbolism. It isn’t then so farfetched to think that Kamzolkin may have used the hammer and sickle to send a completely different message, even if nobody else would get it. For instance, in Hindu and Chinese culture, the hammer is oftentimes linked with the triumph of evil over good. The sickle, on the other hand, was commonly associated with death in various religions. Before the scythe was introduced, Death was pictured with a sickle in medieval Europe. Old Slavic religions, as well as Hindu religions portray their respective gods of death while holding a sickle in their left hand. Could  Kamzolkin have meant these when he designed the Soviet Hammer and Sickle? Probably not, but it’s still an intriguing notion.

All of this, of course, is mere speculation and we have no way of knowing whether it is right or wrong. Nobody asked Kamzolkin and the answer died with him back in 1957. But this can be seen as a great exercise when looking at other symbols, particularly older ones that we know very little about. Interpretation is the key here, and depending on the context and one’s point of view, a simple thing like this Soviet emblem can mean two completely different things.

3. The Jesus Fish

Officially known as vesica pisces, the Jesus Fish has a long history attached to it. Today, the Ichthys, as it is sometimes called, is primarily associated with the Christian faith, and you can occasionally find one either on someone’s porch or as a bumper sticker. The symbol is oftentimes accompanied by the ancient Greek letters IXOYE which stand for Ichthys, or Fish. The letters are an acrostic which represents “Jesus Christ, God’s son, savior” and early Christians used it as a way to symbolize their faith in a time when the religion was still an underground organization. But the symbol itself is much older and had another, totally different meaning, even to the early Christians themselves.

In previous religions, the glyph was associated with the goddess Venus and stood for fertility since it kinda resembles a lady’s private parts. Some early representations of Jesus show him as an infant within a vesica pisces, which in this context is known as the mandorla, meaning “shaped like an almond.” And the mandorla was said to represent the “doorway” between the heavens and the material world. In architecture, Gothic-style arches are based on the mandorla as a representation of passage between the two worlds. The symbol is created by intersecting two circles, which again signify the connection between the worlds. By adding a third circle, we get the triquetra, or three interlocking vesica pisces, which symbolizes the Holy Trinity. By adding a few more circles we get the before mentioned Seed of Life.

2. The Pentagram

It wouldn’t be fair to our fellow Satanists if we talked about the Ichthys but left out the infamous Pentagram. The symbol today is commonly associated with Wicca (contemporary witchcraft), Satanism, and Masonry. But unbeknownst to many is the fact that the Pentagram is far older than any of these practices and has been in use since ancient times. The five pointed star was found scratched on a cave wall in Babylonia, and in ancient Greece it was believed to hold magical properties. The Pentagram is thought to have originated from the path Venus takes on the night sky in relation the Earth, in an 8 year long cycle. The Pentagram was even the official seal of Jerusalem for a while and during medieval times it stood to represent the five wounds Jesus suffered during his crucifixion. It also stood for the proportions of the human body, as well as the five basic senses.

Only during the 20th century did the Pentagram begin being associated with Satanism, probably because it was used by the Wiccans. Here, the five points of the star represent the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire, plus spirit. But while for the Wiccans the Pentagram is pointing upwards, symbolizing the spirit’s triumph over the four material elements, in Satanism, the five-pointed star is oriented downwards. This stands for each individual’s victory over dissolution, being in fact a material being.

1. The Anarchy Symbol

To properly understand the Anarchy symbol, we must first look at what Anarchy is and what it actually stands for. Anarchy is a political ideology just like democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, communism, or liberalism. It evolved alongside democracy in ancient Greece and derives from the ancient Greek word anarchia, which translates to “without a ruler.” What this means is that Anarchy doesn’t cite lawlessness or chaos; rather, a society with proper rules and regulations put in place, but without an authoritarian ruler over everyone else. Anarchy was further developed and improved upon during the French Revolution period at the end of the 18th century. This was also the time when Anarchy got its negative connotations, as the ruling elites obviously didn’t what it to happen.

On a standard political chart, besides the usual economic left and right, there is also an authoritarian up and a libertarian down. All famed dictators like Stalin, Mao, or Hitler, are all found at the very top of the chart, either on the left or the right, depending on their economic principles. On the bottom of the chart is anarchy in various forms like Anarcho-communism, Syndicalism, Mutualism, Anarcho-capitalism or Anarcho-socialism, among others. In fact, Karl Marx envisioned Communism as being a form of Anarchism with a state and class-free society. Problems arose, however, when it was put into practice. While fellow anarchist Mikhail Bakunin argued that the state should be abolished from the start, Marx preferred a Big Government first to act as a provisional intermediary that would put everything in order and ensure eventual Anarchy in the end. But as we all know, once in power, people rarely relinquish it and thus Communism ended up being the exact opposite of what was intended. Striving towards a form of Anarchy applies, in principle, to all modern political systems that state to uphold and promote liberty or equality.

 Now, the symbol itself was designed by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a French journalist and libertarian socialist from the 19th century. The symbol is made out of the letter A which obviously stands for Anarchy, and a circle around it that is actually the letter O for order. It’s quite often to see this symbol spray-painted on walls, or people waving an Anarchy flag while wreaking havoc on a city street. But you can be sure that these people have no idea what Anarchy really is, and all that they end up doing is enforcing the idea instilled by the ruling classes from the 18th and 19th centuries; the idea that Anarchy is chaos. Civic duty and volunteerism are the driving forces behind Anarchy, not violence, as so many believe.

Famous Symbols and Their Meaning

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Advertising Campaign

Hall Of Fame

It might seem hard to believe for many people, but commercials are a cherished part of the pop culture landscape. As much as viewers are willing to pay extra fees to stream movies and television shows without ad breaks, commercial compilations are still extremely popular on YouTube and catchphrases from them are as likely to enter the zeitgeist (“Where’s the beef?”) as anything from the best programming. The sheer amount of market share or public interest that they can generate when they’re done right is staggering. The commercials here might not be some of your favorites, but for the companies behind their creation, they were golden geese. Sometimes that was the case for years, or even decades.

 10. GEICO Cavemen

In 2004 the auto insurance giant GEICO aired a commercial where the joke was that an announcer said saving money with their insurance was “so easy a caveman could do it!” This offended the caveman that was working with the crew for the shoot as a boom operator, causing him to yell “not cool!” and storm off the set. As the concept of political correctness was at the time, and continues to be, a hot button issue, the small joke struck such a chord with audiences that variations on the premise of easily offended, urbane cavemen were made by GEICO for the next three years even though the initial plan for the campaign was to only make three commercials about offended cavemen.They became such runaway successes that in 2007 Joe Lawson, the writer that started the whole phenomenon, joined forces with directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck to sell ABC on a series for the cavemen. The series was not a hit with critics or audiences, but it was still much more than a one-off joke that you’d expect to be skipped or fast-forwarded through could ever reasonably hope for.

9. Erin – Esurance

In 2004, with a fairly meager budget of $60,000 (in an industry where commercials average about$350,000), a marketer named Kimberly Brewe hired three independent animators to create a female agent for auto insurance who fought thugs on rooftops and infiltrated secret headquarters. Within five years she had been featured in 30 commercials on national television and made the up and coming Esurance a household name even though there’d been no brand awareness of Esurance before that ad campaign.

Esurance received actual fan mail for the character almost immediately after test broadcasts were made in Sacramento. It was a strong indication of just how much the cartoon character connected with audiences since, in 2004, action heroines were more of a novelty. Unfortunately, some would argue that she ended up connecting with audiences a bit too much. Foremost among those making that argument would be Esurance itself, whose management cancelled the character in 2010 when it was learned that she was a popular character in online pornography.

8. “It’s Only a Movie…”

Wes Craven’s 1972 debut film Last House on the Left is one of the most influential, if not really celebrated, horror films ever made. It was a mainstream success with more graphic, disturbing content than almost any film from its time and ushered in a wave of more intense horror movies, even though it’s so badly made that Craven disowned it after moving on to hits like
Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. What really made Last House on the Left a hit was its memorable ad campaign, with a trailer that told the audience that to avoid fainting they would have to tell themselves, “It’s only a movie, only a movie, only a movie, only a movie” while showing relatively little footage.As film critic Joe Reid explained, it was an especially effective ad because of a combination of sheer confidence in telling the audience that they’d need to “distance” themselves from the action onscreen to be able to keep watching it at all, and the lack of information about the plot left audiences more intrigued. Shame it couldn’t have been used in the service of promoting a better movie.

7. Carl’s Jr.’s Racy Ads

In one of the highest profile examples of the notion that there’s no bad publicity in advertising, Carl’s Jr.’s sexually provocative Super Bowl ads began in 2006 with an ad featuring Paris Hiltonwashing a car and quickly got more ridiculous. This promotional campaign has been a boon for supermodels such as Kate Upton and Charlotte McKinney, who owed much of their subsequent careers to pretending to eat burgers in a suggestive manner or while dressed in very revealing ways. It’s also been a source of considerable irritation for people who believe the ads demean women.

CEO Andy Puzder claimed that the publicity brought by the commercials saved a fast food companythat, before the sexual ad campaign, was on the brink of bankruptcy. Puzder also pointed out that the ads are no more graphic than the covers of magazines. Whatever the truth of that, in March 2017 Carl’s Jr. so completely changed their marketing campaign that they made a commercial explicitly denouncing their previous advertisements. Allegedly the change in direction was because Millennials are more concerned by the healthiness of their food than they are titillated by relatively tame commercials when the internet exists.

6. Verizon’s Test Man

There may be no statement that seems less likely to launch someone to fame than, “Can you hear me now? Good.” Still, in 2002, cell phone coverage was limited enough that being unsure about getting reception depending on where you were standing was a sentiment the average telecommunications customer understood. So when Verizon began airing commercials that year featuring Paul Marcarelli just repeating that same question and answer over and over in a variety of locations to illustrate how thoroughly Verizon was allegedly expanding its coverage, people responded to it in a big way. USA Today reported in 2004 that the campaign had aided in a 10% boost to Verizon’s customers the first year and a 15% one on the second. It even was credited with dropping their customer turnover rate by over 25%.

For all that, it was a very mixed blessing for Marcarelli himself. Since he was famous almost exclusively for asking the same question over and over (despite being a successful screenwriter) inevitably people on the street hounded him over it for years, even at a funeral. In 2016 he went over to the rival telecommunications company Sprint in commercials that claimed that basically all carriers offered equally good services. It must have been very gratifying for him to be allowed to say anything other than the same six words.

5. Maytag Repairman

It’s amazing how long a simple joke can play out in the world of television commercials with very minor variations. In 1967, Jesse White played a senior repairman for Maytag appliances dressing down his trainees. The joke of the commercial was that they never got any work in their jobs because Maytag products never needed to be repaired. It’s at least good for a smirk, but audiences so enjoyed it that White played the part 60 times over the next 22 years. The role later went to Gordon Jump, famous for his role on WKRP in Cincinnati and that one episode of Diff’rent Strokes in which he played a pedophile. Yeah, that happened. Jump played the role of the Maytag Repairman from 1989 until 2003.

Somehow, interest in the Maytag Repairman built back up until the character was resurrected, played now by Colin Ferguson, who you may recognize as the star of Eureka or from his role on The Vampire Diaries, and who took up the mantle in 2014. A study by the Maytag company found in 2011 that 85% of those surveyed recognized the character and 18% considered him one of their favorite characters, demonstrating just how much the simplest ideas can be the most successful.

4. The Most Interesting Man in the World

In 2006, Jonathan Goldsmith was hired to promote Dos Equis brand beer. He didn’t so much play a character as he embodied a persona: A man who was the embodiment of worldliness, sophistication, and experience to such an absurd degree that his life experiences became wordplay (e.g. the commercial’s narrator saying that “his two cents is worth $37.”) He went truly viral on sites such as Reddit. Thousands of posts were made of an image of him with text superimposed over it that paraphrased his catchphrase “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” The campaign meant four straight years of growth for Dos Equis, including one year where it shot up 26%.

Touchingly, Goldsmith was able to parlay his internet appeal for very noble causes. In 2014, he reached out to Reddit, among other sites, to promote efforts to remove landmines from Cambodia. Other charities he has supported include Free Art for Abused Children and the tiger protection group the Sabre Foundation. Maybe this doesn’t make him the most interesting man in the world, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

3. Speedy the Alka Seltzer Boy

You might think an anthropomorphic Alka-Seltzer tablet or a customer with indigestion would be the ideal mascot for the antacid. Indeed, one commercial featuring a man yelling “Mamma mia! That’s a spicy meatball!” spawned an enduring catchphrase. But Alka-Seltzer’s first approach was to make a cherub-faced, red-headed child named Speedy in 1952. By the time the character’s initial run ended in 1964, he had been featured in 212 commercials and appeared opposite such stars as silent film legend Buster Keaton, rendered both in 2D and in stop motion.

But the character seemed to keep coming back. In 1980 he was featured in a commercial for the Winter Olympics. Then the character was rebooted in 2008 because he was “retro cool.” Oddly, the publications the ads were featured in were skin magazines Maxim and Playboy, which don’t feel like the most natural fit for this kind of character.

2. How Many Licks

If you are a television viewer of a certain age, it’s pretty much impossible for you to have not seen this cartoon commercial that first aired in 1969. In the initial, minute long version, a human boy walks up to three animals and asks them how many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop before being told to ask the owl. As you know, the owl licks it three times, then bites it before concluding the answer is “three.”

Instead of being remade or having spinoff commercials, the cartoon itself was so popular that rather than remake it or do variations, it was merely shortened to just a turtle and the owl and then rerun for decades. The silly central question was so firmly imprinted on the public consciousness that several colleges, such as New York University, and independent study groups found time to determine the answer for themselves. The current accepted answer is approximately one thousand.

1. Honda’s Cog Commercial

Not many commercials have ever instilled a sense of wonder in viewers. In 2003 Honda pulled it off with an elaborate commercial for their Accord model that featured a very elaborate Rube Goldberg machine that had audiences everywhere saying, “that had to be fake.” But the truth was that aside from digitally cutting two takes together, it was completely live action. It just happened to take six months of planning and a week-long shoot with a staggering six hundred takes to get every extremely precise reaction right.

The doubtless extremely frustrating work paid off handsomely when the commercial quadrupled Honda’s web traffic and tripled outreach to their contact center. This was in no small part because there was so much controversy over whether the commercial was done for real or not that Snopeshad to write an article vouching for it. But good luck convincing any company to not do something like this with CGI today.


Advertising HOF

– WIF Consumer Corner