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


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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


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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

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.


Making the World

a Better Place