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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Only the Songwriter Knows For Sure – WIF Music

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Famous Songs

(That Are Widely

Misunderstood)

It’s often been said that songs are largely driven by emotion rather than meaning or complexity of the music. This certainly would explain why a scant three chords and a groovy haircut goes a long way and can help to sell a ton of records. Conversely, sometimes the lyrics can evoke equally powerful feelings — even when a song’s meaning is completely misunderstood.

From The Clash to The Kingsmen, here’s just a fraction of classic tunes that people continue to love, despite completely missing the point of what the songwriters were trying to say.

10. “Train In Vain” (The Clash)

Ever since its release from the seminal London Calling double album, “Train In Vain” arrived at the station shrouded in mystery — largely in part to the track not being listed on the sleeve or back cover. The song name would also become muddled after fans began calling it by its chorus, “Stand By Me,” as well as the actual title never being mentioned in the lyrics; furthermore, the toe-tapping tune has absolutely nothing to do with transportation or working out. Now 40 years later, the heart of the controversy lies in a simple printing snafu and a stubborn girlfriend.

Written by Mick Jones, “Train In Vain” was originally intended to be used as a flexi-disk promotion for the British music magazine, NME. But when the deal fell through at the last minute, the band decided to tack it onto the master of their recently completed album. This, however, resulted in one small problem: the artwork, lyrics, liner notes, etc. had already gone to the printer. As a result, it landed on Side Four as Track 5 with the title crudely scratched on the original vinyl in the needle run-off area. Subsequent pressings would later include the proper title on the album — although in the U.S., it contained the variation, “Train In Vain (Stand By Me).”

The story behind the meaning is rooted in Jones’ ex-girlfriend, Slits guitarist Viv Albertine. Although Jones has remained somewhat tight-lipped about the doomed relationship, the feminist rock icon has been more candid: “I’m really proud to have inspired that but often he won’t admit to it. He used to get the train to my place in Shepherds Bush and I would not let him in. He was bleating on the doorstep. That was cruel.”

The all-female Slits supported The Clash on their White Riot tour — and the alluring Albertine enjoyed a well-earned reputation of breaking many punk hearts, including Sid Vicious, Johnny Thunders, and Joe Strummer.

9. “There She Goes” (The La’s)

An undeniably catchy, jangly ballad, “There She Goes” appears to be a simple tale of unrequited love. However, the lyrics ”Racing through my brain… pulsing through my vein” reveal a not-so-innocent side. Additionally, frontman Lee Mavers’ eccentric and reclusive behavior only furthered drug-fueled speculation that the popular track drew inspiration from poppies. Yep, it’s about heroin.

Released as a single in 1988, the track earned the proto Britpop band from Liverpool earned critical praise before typical band infighting and chaos ensued. Although the song would be re-released two years later on their debut album under the Go! Disc label, The La’s had already been relegated to one-hit wonder status.

Later, the alt Christian-rock outfit Sixpence None The Richer covered the tune and enjoyed a major hit stateside — proving Jesus has a place in his heart for all saints and sinners.

8. “Fire and Rain” (James Taylor)

This one’s also about smack. Sorry. Taylor wrote “Fire and Rain” as a deeply personal reflection of life’s bumpy road, capturing all of its twists and turns and pains and joys. A remarkable feat considering he was only 20 years old at the time. From his second album, Sweet Baby James, the song’s structure unfolds like a three-act play with a beginning, middle, and end. Taylor explains in a 1972 interview with Rolling Stone:

“‘Fire and Rain’ has three verses. The first verse is about my reactions to the death of a friend. The second verse is about my arrival in this country with a monkey on my back, and there Jesus is an expression of my desperation in trying to get through the time when my body was aching and the time was at hand when I had to do it… And the third verse of that song refers to my recuperation in Austin Riggs (psychiatric facility) which lasted about five months.”

The end result earned the young singer/songwriter a multi-platinum record and a career that remains strong today over five decades later. But the “monkey on his back” would become a recurring affliction. Taylor first began using heroin after arriving in New York City in 1966 — a habit that escalated in London while briefly signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records label. Despite his personal and professional setbacks, Taylor has sold over 100 million records, and in 2000 became enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

7. “Dancing With Myself” (Billy Idol)

In his tell-all memoir, Dancing With Myself, the title is both metaphor and the name of one of his biggest hits. It’s also a cheeky double entendre for spanking the monkey. You know, the five knuckle shuffle. Jackin’ the beanstalk. Badgering the witness. Jerkin’ the gherkin. Okay, enough already — it’s about masturbation.

The song was first recorded in 1979 by Idol’s previous band, Gen X, and then re-released as a single in 1981 for the singer’s solo launch. Written by Idol and Gen X bassist, Tony James, the song was inspired in part during a Gen X tour of Japan in 1979. According to Idol, he and James visited a Tokyo disco, where they were surprised to find most of the crowd there dancing alone in front of a wall of mirrors instead of with each other.

However, when pressed on the subject, Idol later conceded there’s more than one layer: “There’s a masturbatory element to it, too. There’s a masturbatory element in those kids dancing with their own reflections. It’s not too much further to sexual masturbation. The song really is about these people being in a disenfranchised world where they’re left bereft dancing with their own reflections.”

Umm, sure, Billy, whatever you say. The song’s music video (which saw heavy rotation in MTV’s halcyon days) features a half-naked Idol thrusting and grinding with post-apocalyptic zombies. Oddly, there’s no mention of social anxiety, disillusionment or the despair of ennui. But then what do you expect from someone who kicks off his autobiography prologue with sordid tales of “never-ending booze, broads, and bikes, plus a steady diet of pot, cocaine, ecstasy, smack, opium, Quaalude, and reds.”

Long live rock & roll!

6. “Imagine” (John Lennon)

On the surface, this simple piano-driven ballad is a dreamy elixir for the soul, calling for an end to war, borders, religion, greed and hunger. The song would not only become a modern hymn of sorts for world peace and unity, but also helped solidify Lennon’s enduring legacy as a stand-alone rock and roll deity. But the ex-Beatle, who clearly understood the power of celebrity, was also a bit cryptic with the hidden message — one which he later characterized as his way of delivering a “sugarcoated” communist manifesto.

Masterfully arranged and co-produced by pre-felon, Phil Spector, in 1971, “Imagine” remains as relevant today as ever and ranks #3 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs Of All-Time. But the main takeaway that’s often overlooked isn’t just some hippie ode to all love one another — but rather encourages people to use revolutionary methods and ideas to make the world a better place. Does this mean John Lennon spent his free time puffing on cigars with Fidel Castro in Havana or riding on the back of Che Guevara’s motorcycle through Bolivian jungles? Hardly.

Lennon much preferred the company of his wife and co-collaborator, Yoko Ono, at their spectacular estate in Ascot (and location for the song’s music video). Furthermore, Lennon set the record straight regarding party affiliations, stating “I am not particularly a communist and I do not belong to any movement.”

5. “Poker Face” (Lady Gaga)

Anyone who saw Gaga on Season 5 of American Horror Story knows this lady can get down. In fact, her convincing performance even won her a Golden Globe — which shouldn’t have been terribly surprising given her impressive real-life talent for switch-hitting. And no, we’re not talking baseball. As for that little ditty that launched Gaga’s career into another galaxy, “Poker Face” has little to do with playing cards. It’s all about bi-sexuality.

Co-written by Gaga with her longtime collaborator, Red One, the track is said to be a tribute to past conquests in Gaga’s wild ride to fame and fortune. It was first released in 2008 off her debut album (and prophetically named), Fame, and went on to become one of the best selling singles of all time. Featuring more hooks than a Bass Pro Shop, the song also benefits from that over-the-top accompanying music video, a wildly sexy romp that has since been viewed more times than every Kardashian sex tape combined. Well, maybe.

Unlike other songs on this list, the lyrics are fairly transparent and only get lost in the blinding glare cast by the singer’s hyper-radiant star. Nonetheless, it’s doesn’t take much imagination to decipher what she means when she playfully teases, “I’m just bluffin’ with my muffin.” Got it, Gaga. Message received, no distortion.

4. “Every Breath You Take” (The Police)

Ironically, the cops should’ve locked up these guys a long time ago for allowing this unofficial Stalker Anthem to become such a massive hit. Actually, it’s not their fault — but you’d think that someone as smart as Sting (only his name is stupid) would have anticipated that his lyrics would become so widely misinterpreted as both a sappy love song and a license to creep. Unfortunately, the subtext about a possessive lover with an Orwellian zeal for spying never quite registered with fans. Perhaps the band should’ve named the album something other than Synchronicity.

Sting wrote “Every Breath You Take” during a critical juncture in his life — both personally and professionally. Although The Police had enjoyed a mercurial run with sold-out arenas and multiple-platinum records, Sting felt cornered and wanted out. He had also become embroiled in an affair with his future wife,Trudie Styler, while inconveniently still married to her best friend, Frances Tomelty. Awkward. So, like any rock star with lots of money and access to private jets, he took off for the Caribbean, where he found refuge on Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye estate. There, he penned the song that became the band’s biggest hit and won the 1983 Grammy for Song Of The Year.

In a 1993 interview, Sting explains the inspiration: “I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”

3. “Death Or Glory” (The Clash)

The London-based rockers return with another entry on the list, which shouldn’t be a surprise from the group simply known as “the only band that matters.” Also from their London Callingalbum, “Death or Glory” is a parody about those who talk a big game but fail to back it up or wind up selling out to the man.

An upbeat tempo and satisfying melody accompanies possibly the greatest lyric in rock & roll history: “He who f**** nuns, will later join the church.” The amusing metaphor hammers home the point that those who fight hardest against conformity will eventually become what they vowed to avoid. It was apparently one of the band’s favorite songs on the album, recorded at Wessex Studios in Highbury, London for CBS records. According to legend, their eccentric producer, Guy Stevens, ran around the studio like a madman, throwing chairs and ladders during the session and even dumped a bottle of wine on Joe Strummer’s piano.

Interestingly, the song also reflects the band’s acceptance of change in terms of dealing with their own success while trying to stay loyal to their working class roots. Sadly, Strummer passed away in 2002, but unlike previous generations of rockers who pledged to die before they got old, this frontman actually did it.

2. “Born In The U.S.A.” (Bruce Springsteen)

Although many still believe this 1984 mega-hit reflects America’s ass-kicking greatness, the true meaning tells a much different story. But the confusion is understandable. The easy-to-remember chorus coupled with Springsteen’s trademark gravelly, blue-collar vocals practically screams baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. The Boss, however, wrote it as a scathing indictment of the U.S. military-industrial complex and the debacle of the Vietnam War.

Nonetheless, beginning with Ronald Reagan, politicians continue to misuse the song as a propaganda tool on the campaign trail. Perhaps taking time to actually listen to the lyrics, or better yet, having the words explained to them by the man himself would help to clarify the matter: “when you think about all the young men and women that died in Vietnam, and how many died since they’ve been back — surviving the war and coming back and not surviving — you have to think that, at the time, the country took advantage of their selflessness. There was a moment when they were just really generous with their lives.”

In “Born in the USA,” Springsteen pays a specific homage to the Hell experienced at Khe Sanh, where in 1968, a U.S. Marine garrison bravely withstood 77 days of relentless bombing in one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war.

Fittingly for our purpose, Springsteen once called “Born in the USA” the “most misunderstood song since ‘Louie, Louie.’”

1. “Louie Louie” (The Kingsmen)

No list about misunderstood songs would be complete without including that 1963 golden oldie,“Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen. Featuring mostly indecipherable lyrics, it would eventually become the most recorded song in history with well over 1,000 versions, ranging from Barry White to Motorhead. But the bizarre, serpentine path that led to the rock n roll pantheon is as murky as the garbled vocals laid down in one take by an obscure, teen-aged garage band from Portland, Oregon.

In an equally strange, ironic twist, golden-voiced Harry Belafonte deserves some credit for the song’s wild odyssey. After all, his 1956 chart-topping album “Calypso” would inspire a doo-wop singer in L.A. named Richard Berry to hastily write down the original “Louie Louie” lyrics on a roll of toilet paper (yes, really) in hopes of cashing in on the popular island sound craze. In 1957, Berry and his band, The Pharaohs, recorded the track about a Jamaican sailor yearning for a girl as he laments to a bartender named Louie.

Although the song enjoyed decent regional airplay, Berry sold the rights a few years later for $750 to help pay for his wedding (he would be justly compensated years later). Then in 1961, a singer in the Pacific Northwest named Rockin’ Robin Roberts covered the tune with his band, The Wailers — and that’s when The Kingsmen finally enter the picture.

Childhood school friends and bandmates Lynn Easton and Jack Fry had heard Roberts’ version playing on local jukeboxes around town and decided to try a recording of their own. And so on April 6, 1963, after coughing up 50 bucks to pay for a quickie studio session, the boys walked into Northwest Inc. Recording and a date with infamy.

The small studio had been set up for an instrumental arrangement only, forcing Ely to get up on his toes to be heard on a microphone dangling from the ceiling. Adding to the difficulty, he also wore braces at the time, producing his soon-to-be-legendary mumbled words. By October that year, the single had raced up the charts, fueled largely by the raw sound and its perceived obscene message.

The single was banned by several radio stations and declared indecent by the Governor of Indiana — and later investigated by the FBI. Eventually, the boys from Bridgetown would only be found guilty of poor enunciation (as well as Fry botching the third verse two bars too soon) but no charges were ever filed. It should be noted, however, Easton can be heard yelling “f***” at the fifty-four second mark after dropping his drumstick.


Only the Songwriter Knows For Sure

WIF Music

Fave Film Origins – WIF @ the Movies

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Popular Films

Adapted From

Crazy Sources

Lots of iconic stuff is adapted from other iconic stuff – Jaws the movie from “Jaws” the novel, the Pirates Of The Caribbean skeleton monsters from Keith Richards, and the works of Terry Gilliam from full-blown dementia.

But not these. These iconic works are adapted from … well, weird crap. Crap you’d never think to adapt to film, unless you were on an obscene amount of cocaine, which is the only explanation we have for these:

10. The Producers (2005)

Moviegoers could be forgiven for being a little confused about 2005’s The Producers, an adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name. Or was it an adaptation of the 1968 Mel Brooks film? Both? Who knows?

The 2005 film is a rare successful example of a recursive adaptation – that is, an adaptation to medium A from medium B, which was originally adapted from medium A. The 1968 film was adapted into the Broadway musical, which was then adapted back to film in 2005. The, um, producers of the 2005 film never even looked at Brooks’ original – it was wholly an adaptation of the musical, which had been running since 2001.

It was a great adaptation but, if it gets adapted back into a stage play based solely on it, we think that the fabric of reality might start to get a little wobbly.

9. An Inconvenient Truth

After his defeat in the 2000 Presidential election, Al Gore returned to a topic that had fascinated him for years – global warming. He finished compiling a slide showon the subject that he had started years earlier and took it on the road, giving his presentation to hundreds of audiences over several years.

In 2005 the presentation was seen by Laurie David, a television producer and part-time environmental activist, who somehow got the ball rolling on convincing Gore to turn it into a movie. Now, Gore was very passionate about his subject, but was not exactly known as a dynamic speaker. Yet instead of getting, say, The Rock to narrate, he chose to do it himself.

The 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth is largely just a filmed version of Gore’s presentation, making it the only film we can think of to be adapted from a lecture. We won’t argue with the potential importance of its message, but we will argue that its success was probably singular, and that “Adapted Lectures” do not need to become a regular thing.

8. Adaptation

Ask any screenwriter to adapt a narrative-free rumination on orchid poaching and life, like Susan Orlean’s “The Orchid Thief”, and you’ll likely end up with pages and pages of unusable garbage, and a screenwriter hanging by his neck in the closet. Unless the writer is Charlie Kaufman, in which case you’ll end up with an epic mindscrew containing Nicolas Cage’s two best performances, filmed from one of the greatest screenplays ever written.

Kaufman turned the unadaptable novel, itself based on Orlean’s original New Yorker article, into a meditation on the nature of adaptation itself – not only in the literary but the evolutionary sense – with himself as the star, a screenwriter struggling to adapt a screenplay which, of course, will eventually be made into the movie you’re watching.

It’s an approach only Kaufman could have pulled off, and whoever’s bright idea it was to make “The Orchid Thief” into a movie should thank their lucky stars that Kaufman was their writer.

7. He’s Just Not That Into You

This 2009 Affleck-and-Aniston wankfest is a pretty standard ensemble rom-com on the surface. It’s one of a handful (a very small handful, mind) of ill-advised self-help book adaptations- this one a 2004 Oprah Book Of The Month that was inspired by, O Holy Grail of creative inspirations, a line of dialogue from “Sex And The City.”

The book is essentially a long series of really obvious telltale signs that the person you’re pursuing is – wait for it – not into you. How to pad this out into a feature film instead of, say, a damn commercial? Why, by turning several of its points into a series of (supposedly) comic vignettes in the style of a bland, vacuous rom-com with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston!

Needless to say, the movie did not do very well critically or commercially. Moviegoers were just not that into it, and even though that joke ss ridiculously obvious, but it was right there. We’re not even sorry.

6. The Box

For his next trick, following the epic argument starter Southland Tales, Richard Kelly turned to an adaptation of a classic … okay, an underrated … fine, a really obscure story, whose most well-known version is as a 15-minute segment from the 80’s Twilight Zone revival called “Button, Button,” which itself was adapted from a very short (8 pages!) story by Richard Matheson.

The story is too thin to fill out 15 minutes of TV, let alone a feature film, and the film itself got very mixed reviews, to say the absolute least. You wonder why labyrinthine-plot-meister Kelly would turn to it at all rather than, you know, just coming up with another of his wackaloon original stories. Sadly, it’s starting to look less and less like Kelly is ever going to make another movie as unbelievably awesome as Donnie Darko.

5. The Shop Around The Corner/You’ve Got Mail

Quintessential chick flick You’ve Got Mail is essentially an updated version of the 1940 romantic comedy The Shop Around The Corner, repackaged as a vehicle for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and co-starring AOL instead of the US Postal Service.

The earlier film was adapted, for some reason, from an obscure Hungarian play called “Parfumerie” that was never even translated into English, let alone performed for English speaking audiences. Many of the plot tropes have become standard issue for rom-coms, so the next time you’re watching one, and find yourself wondering why in the heck all of these movies have virtually the same plot, you can thank Hungarian playwright Miklós László. Or go back in punch his lights out; that works too.

4. The Fast And The Furious

Vin Diesel’s surprise hit from 2001 was loosely based on a Vibe Magazine article about illegal street racing, titled “Racer X.” The 1998 article chronicled the underground drag racing scene, which had been spreading throughout Southern California in the early 1990’s. While we suppose a movie about the scene makes sense, we’re surprised there was apparently no other source material to adapt. For that matter, we’re surprised an adaptation was even necessary.

Just one in a long, long series of one film based on Vibe friggin’ Magazine, The Fast And The Furious spawned a ridiculous series of five films (soon to be six) that are still going strong, almost like an engine of some kind.

3. I Know What You Did Last Summer

This 1997 film is known mainly for ripping off the vibe of the previous year’s Scream – perhaps because it was written by the same guy – and also for Jennifer Love Hewitt’s breasts. Like Scream, it’s a kind of combination slasher flick / whodunit with a twist ending, and it’s also pretty damn gory.

Unlike Scream, or practically any other slasher movie, it’s adapted from a novel. And not just any novel; the kind you used to order from Scholastic catalogs when you were a kid. Yes, this movie was originally a Young Adult novel – from freakin’ 1973.

Of course, the novel did not feature any gory murders (one character was shot, but survived), and being a YA novel, its focus is largely on the romantic relationship between the female protagonist and her hunky boyfriend (giggle!) Which begs the question: why didn’t the filmmakers just come up with an original story for their slasher flick? Why adapt any novel, let alone this one?

2. Braveheart

The 1995 historical film Braveheart is fondly remembered as one of the last films in which Mel Gibson was undisputedly awesome. It is NOT typically remembered for being based on a 15th century epic poem entitled – we kid you not –  “The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace” by a poet known as Blind Harry. Not only did we not make that up, we can’t even pronounce it.

As one of the only historical records of Wallace, the poem’s accounts of his deeds were leaned on heavily for the film’s story, even though almost as little is known about Blind Harry as about Wallace.

1. Live Free Or Die Hard

The Die Hard films have a history of adapting weird crap, but none this weird: the 2007 installment takes its premise from a 1997 (timely!) article in Wired magazine by John Carlin. The article describes “war games,” of the sort meant to anticipate and respond to an information attack, the type that wouldn’t be possible for several years.

Originally set to be adapted to film in 1999, as its own entity, the project stalled until it was absorbed (like so many other things) by the Die Hard franchise. The PG-13 rated film notoriously failed to please fans, or anyone else really, with its bloodless violence, neutered dialogue and absurd explosions. Fortunately, the 2013 installment A Good Day To Die Hard is rated R and – get ready for this – is not an adaptation of anything, but an original story for the first time in franchise history.


Fave Film Origins –

WIF @ the Movies

Literary Misunderstandings – WIF Bookshelf

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Widely Misunderstood

Pieces of Writing

Literary critics have invented a host of phrases and concepts to separate artists from their art. By far the best known is “death of the author,” which comes from a 1967 essay by Roland Barthes. Essentially, the notion is to imagine that the author cannot be asked for their intent, or how their own life experiences shaped their writing, so the theorist’s interpretation is at least as valid as the author’s intention–provided said interpretation is reasonably derived from the text.  

While that’s a worthwhile literary exercise, there can be a problem that comes from many people knowing pieces of writing through cultural osmosis instead of actually reading the text. Indeed, sometimes there are aspects of the text that simply aren’t as haunting as the passages in stories that become touchstones. So interpretations of stories can be demonstrably incorrect. As is the case with…

10. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

When the 1995 Disney adaption of this movie came out, many critics and audience members were united in decrying the supposed borderline desecration of the original story. They pointed to the 1939 or 1920 versions of the story as proper adaptations, which properly portrayed the unsavory nature of Quasimodo, the tragic fate of the gypsy Esmeralda, clergyman Claude Frollo, and so on… and all in the shadow of one of the most celebrated buildings in French history.

It was a criticism completely undermined by how Victor Hugo wrote the original 1831 version of the story. As Lindsay Ellis explains in her highly recommended video essay, in the original novel, Quasimodo is a mere bit part and certainly not a sympathetic figure. There’s no tragic romance with the gypsy Esmeralda, who it turns out was actually a Caucasian abandoned as a child. In brief, Hugo didn’t write his novel as a tragedy, so much as a tribute to the cathedral itself, which at the time of writing was less a French institution than a wreck that had been vandalized numerous times over the centuries and neglected.

That Hugo’s sympathies were with the building over the people who lived in and around it is much less surprising to anyone who knows that the original title was “Notre-Dame de Paris” and that he did not approve of the English title change. Perhaps that theme would resonate with misanthropic architecture students, but it certainly wouldn’t have been the crowd-pleaser many subsequent adaptations have been

9. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Washington Irving’s 1820 story, set in a Dutch community in 1790s New York (loosely based on real events), as we all know is about a schoolteacher named Ichabod Crane, who gets chased by a headless horseman across a bridge. When the horseman can’t catch him, he throws a pumpkin at Crane. Those who read an abridged version in class might remember that it was heavily implied that Brom Bones was pretending to be the Headless Hessian Horseman to scare off Crane so that he could marry Katrina Van Tassel without any competition from superstitious schoolteachers. Considering Ichabod disappears and Bones gets what he wants through pretty underhanded and aggressive means, it seems like this slice of Americana should be a pretty dark, spooky tale where the villain wins in the end, be he ghost or local tough guy in disguise.

Readers have that impression because many of them lost track of how odious a person Irving wrote Ichabod Crane to be. Like many schoolteachers of the time, Crane is described as having romantic interest purely for financial reasons (Irving explicitly describes him as looking at her father’s fortune with “green eyes”). He’s also explicitly a mooch and a glutton, only getting away with it because he knows a lot of local ghost lore. The story also ends with a postscript noting there was talk in Sleepy Hollow that Crane was seen again later, having moved to another community and becoming a judge. However, the locals rejected that because his supposed disappearance made for a better story. If anything, Irving went overboard in assuring audiences not to worry about ol’ Ichabod.

8. Jabberwocky

Lewis Caroll’s titular monster, which was first introduced to readers in Alice Through the Looking Glass, has been portrayed as a serious beast in such adaptations as the 1985 movie. Even those who know better than to portray such serious versions of the monsters from the poem assume that “slivey toves” and “more raths” from the opening verse mean “unidentifiable beasts,” such as in the version done for The Muppet Show.

Jabberwocky’s origin was in 1855, in a magazine called Misch-Masch, which had a circulation of Lewis Carroll’s immediate family. It was not only meant as a parody of folk poems, but he actually handily explained what all the words meant, so those terms aren’t so much nonsense as coded. For example, “slivy toves” are actually cheese-eating badgers. “Mome Raths” are turtles. Bryllyg is said to be the early afternoon, as it refers to the time of broiling dinner. All things considered, the opening verse is much closer to a slightly offbeat version of Wind in the Willowsthan it is a surreal menagerie of cryptids.

7. Harrison Bergeron

In Kurt Vonnegut’s 1961 short story, equality is perverted so that every exceptional person is limited to be no better than the worst performing person, either by restraints that weigh them down or by zapping them if they think too much. This idea has been embraced by right wing publications like National Review. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia cited it in a ruling requiring tournament golfers to walk between shots.

What they don’t seem to notice is the portrayal of the eponymous character. As critics have more recently pointed out, Bergeron is a ridiculously overpowered human being who not only stands 7-feet tall at age 14, he is also literally capable of flying as he dances (once he removes his restraints that weigh hundreds of pounds). More revealingly, he proclaims himself “emperor,” which probably isn’t something Vonnegut would have a “heroic” character do.

He also makes this declaration and displays his powers on live television, which of course means that the Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers would have no trouble hunting him down and shooting him, as she does seemingly effortlessly in the story. Clearly, Bergeron is a parody of the Howard Roark and John Gault-type supermen that are so perfect and so, so underappreciated in Ayn Rand’s novels. Considering Vonnegut’s left-wing views throughout his writing career, it’s objectivism that’s in his sights at least as much as socialism.

6. The Satanic Verses

When it was published in 1988, author Salman Rushdie struck free publicity gold when his book was interpreted as blasphemous and banned in India while the Ayatollah demanded his head. He surely didn’t celebrate this, as he had to go into hiding from very real threats. Several translators of the book were attacked—one fatally. Considering that the book is a formidable 600 pages long, it’s not so surprising that many people didn’t read the entire story and were content to go off a vague sense of what the novel was about, or a heavily abridged version.

The Satanic Verses tells the intertwined stories of two Southeast Asian Muslims, one born wealthy and the other poor. The pair both survive a plane crash, and the rich one becomes cursed (one way is he smells bad) while the other becomes angelic. Still, the rich one survives the novel while the other commits suicide while wanted for murder (he is unambiguously responsible for several deaths). The offending portions of the book are a secondary narrative of a few dozen pages about the rise of the prophet Mahound, written in an approximation of Koranic verse.

The “Satanic Verses” of the title are an allusion to a claim by the prophet that, for some contradictory statements he made, it must have been Satan pretending to be Allah. In a manner that paralleled a scene that offended many in The Last Temptation of Christ, Rushdie styled his parody of the prophet as a very elaborate dream sequence to give him plausible deniability that he was portraying an in-universe, fictional version. The version many Muslims were given, however, only showed the dream sequence without the larger context, and so inevitably it misled many on the intent of the book.

5. Valley of the Dolls

These days, this 1966 novel is better known for selling forty million copies than it is for its contents. Its story of three women who try to enter show business but run into such pitfalls as creative compromise, sexual exploitation, and drug addiction(the “dolls” of the title are upper/downer pills) was so salacious for its time that it couldn’t help but become one of, literally, the bestselling books of all-time. No wonder it got a couple film adaptations: a much derided smash hit in 1968, and a TV movie in 1981.

An aspect of the literary juggernaut that, for decades, was held up as the impetus for its success was the titillation of guessing which characters were modeled on which specific real people. For example, was the character that had a pill addiction Judy Garland? Was the over-the-hill singer who stands in the protagonist’s way based on Ethel Merman? According to Jacqueline Susann, the answer to all these guesses was “no” and that all of the characters were invented to fit a theme instead of to reveal the truth behind a real entertainer’s persona. She eventually said of the misconception, “Let them think that, it sells more of my books.”

4. Dracula

Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic isn’t just one of the two most influential horror novels of the 19th century (alongside Frankenstein). For many outside Central or Eastern Europe, it was the popularity of Dracula that led them to learn of 15th century Romanian ruler Vladislav III, better known as Vlad the Impaler. Deposed early in life, Vlad fought against both the Ottoman Empire and fellow Romanians and eventually died in battle, but not before leaving behind battlefields laden with impaled prisoners of war as an attempt to demoralize his enemies. Such a person seems tailor-made to inspire a monster in human shape.

Which completely misunderstands Stoker’s real writing process. It’s not so much that he didn’t carefully study Vlad Tepisch’s life for inspiration for his iconic character, as there’s no evidence that he even knew the bygone monarch had existed. In 1890 (the year he began working on it) he noted that he read a book on Westphalia and came across the word Dracula, but he misinterpreted it as being the local word for “evil.” While Vlad is from approximately the same area of Europe as Dracula, Vlad was certainly not much associated with Transylvania, which would have been a key connection to invoking the memory of the historical figure. In short, Stoker seemed to have more lucked into the historical echoes than anything else.

3. The Great Gatsby

Nearly 80 years after its initial disappointing release in 1925, F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age triumph sells roughly 500,000 copies a year. It’s resonated with readers enough to make its way to the silver screen in 1926, 1949, 1976, and 2013. Each release was greeted with a critical thrashing and to very mixed results at the box office.

But that’s not to say readers, who generally regard themselves as more astute than movie fans, don’t mistake Fitzgerald’s intention with Gatsby. As explained by Sarah Churchwell in The Guardian, most people misinterpret Gatsby as being a suave charmer. There are a few telling descriptions that undermine this: His pink suits (tacky even in the Roaring ’20s) and his bewilderment in the face of the high society that narrator Nick Carraway takes for granted. That’s why he overcompensates for his parties, doing such things as hire entire orchestras. Gatsby is a dreamer, pining for the fantasy version from his youth of his neighbor Daisy Buchanan, not a man with his feet on the ground in the present. Not that this dissonance is anything new: Fitzgerald wrote back in the day that, “Of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one has the slightest idea what the book was about.”

2. Don Quixote

It’s been just over 400 years since Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece was first published in English. Since then, the image of a nobleman putting a washing basin on his head, taking a nag for a noble steed and his trusty assistant Sancho Panza on a number of delusional, pointless quests in an attempt to restore chivalry to the land has only become more poignant. Don Quixote is both absurd and loveable, and many readers have mixed feelings about the ending where he regains his sanity enough to dictate in his will that his niece be disinherited if she marries a man who reads books of chivalry.

As recounted in the New York Times, the title character actually comes across as much less sympathetic when you really look at the text. While Quixote means well, Cervantes does not skimp on the details of the pain he causes. Not just to his assistant Sancho Panza (who gets beat up because Quixote doesn’t pay a hotel bill), but even mules that can’t drink from their water trough because Quixote insists the water is holy. It’s an aspect of the story that is understandably omitted from adaptations such as Man of La Mancha, which contributed to those interpretations being dismissed as “kitsch.”

1. Slaughterhouse Five

Well, when an author writes as many famous satirical, morally complex, and whimsical stories as Kurt Vonnegut did, it’s not surprising that he’d have multiple works end up on lists like this. So it is with his 1969 anti-war classic (that he self-deprecatingly called his “famous Dresden novel”) about a WWII veteran named Billy Pilgrim, whose subjective experience of his life jumps back and forward through time. Within the intro of the book, Vonnegut quotes an associate who asked authors writing anti-war books why they didn’t instead write an “anti-glacier book.” Meaning, of course, that the human tendency towards war is as implacable as glaciers.

A similar sentiment is expressed by the alien race called the Tralfamadorians, who consider their own atrocities and eventual destruction of the universe as utterly inevitable, because they can see the entirety of all the time they live, all at once. Hence many have viewed it as a pro-fatalism book as they wonder whether the events of the book are real or not.

The text makes explicit that the aliens don’t exist. Within the book, the aliens Billy Pilgrim meets, and the environment they place him in (specifically a zoo), are described as something he read in a novel by hack sci-fi author Kilgore Trout. Further, Pilgrim does not express anything to anyone else about the aliens until after a plane crash that leaves him unconscious (i.e., likely with brain damage and trauma). As Michael Carson of Wrath-BearingTree.com points out, when Pilgrim first discusses the lessons he supposedly learned about the inevitability of war and the atrocities that come from it, it’s with a war hawk named Rumfoord, who Vonnegut mocks. Pilgrim merely echoes Rumfoord and then says he learned all of what Rumfoord told him on Tralfamadore.

On the other hand, Vonnegut also makes it explicit that the Tralfamadorians believe they will eventually destroy the universe. Vonnegut’s message isn’t that war and atrocities are inevitable, but that to follow this fatalist philosophy (that could come from absurd aliens that are the result of head trauma) makes its adherents into puppets, and leads to disaster for everyone.


Literary Misunderstandings –

WIF Bookshelf

WIF Mind Games – Psychological Phenomena

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Psychological Phenomena

The human brain is a fascinating and complex organ. Beyond its ability to help us reason, function and think, it plays some crazy tricks on us. All throughout history, humans have experienced things called psychological phenomena – mind tricks that sometimes defy explanation but are experienced by most people. Here are 10 of them, with a description of the phenomenon itself (when it has one!) and an example of it in action with a real, live human being.

10. Cryptomnesia

Why did Brian Williams, noted NBC news anchor, say he was in a helicopter that was attacked in Iraq? Was he lying? Or, was there something deeper at work. For that matter, why did George Harrison write “My Sweet Lord” to sound just like the Chiffon’s hit 1962 song, “He’s So Fine?” Did he plagiarize, or did he not notice the similarity between his song and the other? An argument can be made for the latter in both instances, all because of something called cryptomnesia. The term was invented by doctors Alan Brown and Dana Murphy, after conducting three experiments at Southern Methodist University in 1989. They discovered that people will unknowingly “borrow” the ideas of others, rather than thinking of new ideas. Rather than consciously stealing a song, or making up a story out of thin air, the human brain is capable of taking a story, song or idea and transforming it. In the person’s mind, it becomes new. Original. When really, it’s just a memory.

Studies have shown this phenomenon is pretty common, but it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between it and a lie. So, it’s possible that Brian Williams simply thought he was on that helicopter, or he might have been lying. In the case of George Harrison, however, a judge decided that cryptomnesia really was the culprit, and Harrison was charged with “subconscious plagiarism.” It’s scary when you think about it. How many of our ideas are actually our own, and how many are really memories?

9. Deja Vu

Have you ever visited a new place, only to get the feeling that you’d been there before? That’s called a deja vu, and it happens to almost everybody. Art Markman, Ph.D., explains deja vu as a device our brains use to create a sense of familiarity in a particular situation using source memories as context clues. He says that humans are good at remembering objects, so if we see a person wearing the same t-shirt that we saw our friend wear last week, we don’t get confused that the stranger in the same shirt is our friend. However, we are not great at recalling memories based solely on how objects are arranged. So, if you see a stack of those t-shirts in one store, and then years later go to a completely different store in a completely different city, you might not remember that you saw an identical stack of shirts, but instead feel a sense of familiarity, of knowing, and not know why.

In one extreme case, French psychiatrist Francois-Leon Arnaud wrote about a guy named Louis who lived in the 19th century. Louis was a soldier who suffered from amnesia, then headaches, irritability and insomnia. And, he suffered from almost constant deja vu. Everything he experienced felt like something he’d experienced before. At the time, his doctors diagnosed him with “illusion deja vu,” but today it’s suggested that Louis may have had a memory disorder like recollective confabulation, where people routinely think that all new information is familiar. For us, the occasional deja vu is a creepy and otherworldly feeling, so much that some people think it’s really a memory from a past life.

8. Bystander Effect

The Bystander Effect is a psychological phenomenon that is social in nature. It’s characterized by the unlikeliness of a group of people (the bigger the group, the more likely the phenomenon) to help during an emergency. The most famous example of this is the 1964 murder of young Kitty Genovese, when allegedly she was murdered on the streets of New York and the 38 bystanders who witnessed the murder did nothing to help. A great example of the phenomenon, if true. However, Kitty’s brother, Bill, decided to get to the bottom of what really happened to his sister and it turns out that only a few people actually saw the attack, and one actually shouted for the murderer to stop. Two people claimed to have called the police, though there are no phone records. Bill says that regardless of whether or not people tried to help, his sister’s story is an important lesson to those who might do nothing when they see someone in trouble.

Another disturbing example of Bystander Effect is that of Topsy the Elephant. Topsy killed one man, but was accused of being a “serial man killer,” and was therefore sentenced to death. Originally believed to be one in a long streak of electrocutions in that “War of the Currents,” it’s likely that electrocution was chosen for Topsy because it was more humane than the original form execution, which was hanging. The electrocution of Topsy occurred on Coney Island, in front of Luna Park employees, Edison’s employees, and many other witnesses. Nobody lifted a finger. A gruesome account of the atrocity can be found in in Michael Daly’s book, Topsy.  An Edmund Burke quote comes to mind: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

7. Placebo Effect

If you’ve ever participated in a clinical study (or studied science, for that matter), you know what a placebo is. It’s a pill or other treatment that has no physical effect, but can produce a psychological benefit called the Placebo Effect. In essence, if someone takes a placebo and experiences some sort of benefit, there you have this particular psychological phenomenon. One example of this is the case of MK-869, an experimental antidepressant developed by Merck in 2002. The drug tested exceedingly well at first, and Merck had high hopes for domination in the marketplace. Imagine how disappointed shareholders and analysts were, however, when data showed that while those who took MK-869 did feel better, so did the same amount of people who took the placebo.

This is a pretty common occurrence in the world of pharmaceuticals. In fact, about 50% of developing drugs fail in the trial stage because it’s found that the placebo is just as effective. Some medical professionals even claim that some people react well even when they know they are receiving a placebo. That the ritual of taking medicine or doing something healthy can make the brain think that the body is healing. Maybe there is something to the old adage, “Heal thyself.”

6. McGurk Effect

The McGurk Effect, a crazy psychological phenomenon that has to do with your eyes and your ears (and how they get confused) when perceiving speech. It happens when your brain associates the hearing part of one sound and pairs it with the visual appearance of another sound being spoken, which leads to the brain perceiving a nonexistent third sound. Whoa, right?

It happens especially when you can’t hear the sound that well (like in a crowded room, or when a person is speaking very softly) but you can see the lips move, making you think you “hear” something else. Think about that kid in class who mouthed “elephant shoe” at you. The phenomenon was first explained in 1976 by, not surprisingly, a guy named McGurk who studied how infants perceive language as they develop. It’s best described in video format, and there are a lot of examples out there. Like this one or, obviously, the one embedded above.

 5. Baader-Meinhof

You just heard about a new director from your film nerd friend. Later that day, you look up a movie with your favorite actor in it on IMDd and BAM, it’s that director. Then, you pick up the newspaper and there’s a profile on the same director – the one you had never heard of before. All of a sudden, this guy is everywhere. Is he the next Scorsese, or did your film buff friend plant all these references for you? Neither! You’re experiencing the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Arnold Swicky, a linguistics professor at Stanford, named this phenomenon Frequency Illusion in 2006, because it was easier than calling it the “When you hear something one time and all of the sudden it’s everywhere syndrome.” He explained that it is caused by two psychological processes. In one, you learn a thing and then, without knowing it, you look for it other places. In the other, confirmation bias tells you that the thing is everywhere overnight, simply because you never noticed it before. The term Baader-Meinhof came about earlier than 2006, on a St. Paul Pioneer Press online forum, where a participant heard the name of the notorious terrorist group two times in the same day. The phrase got meme-ified and later Swicky gave it a medical name.

4. Cognitive Dissonance

You know that getting sunburned can cause skin cancer, but you skip the sunscreen anyway. Or you smoke, even when you know that smoking causes cancer. You’ve got yourself a great example of cognitive dissonance, a phenomenon that occurs when you experience a conflict of attitude, behavior, or belief. Your behavior (skipping the sunscreen) belies your cognition (the fact that you know that you could get skin cancer), creating a state of cognitive dissonance.

This was first studied by Leon Festinger in 1957, when a doomsday cult that believed a flood was going to end the world… well, they didn’t get destroyed by a flood (and neither did the world). He found that people who were on the fence about the flood felt pretty dumb for giving up their houses and jobs and chalked it up to a learning experience, while the devout cult members decided that it was their great faith and sacrifice that saved the world. There are also fun ways to explore this phenomenon, like this Prezi about the cognitive dissonance in Mean Girls.

3. Online Disinhibition Effect

Unless you avoid the internet altogether (and judging by the fact you’re reading this, that’s pretty definitively not the case), you’ve seen the Online Disinhibition Effect in action. It’s your sweet former teacher that turns into a hate-filled rage ball on a Facebook thread. It’s Roseanne tweeting herself into unemployment. It’s the internet user’s tendency to say (or type) things they wouldn’t usually say in real life. This is caused by a number of personality variables that cause a person to deviate from their “normal” behavior. Just like people who feel less shy when online, some people lose a lot more than shyness when they feel a sense of anonymity.

Even on social media, where your name and photo are attached to your profile, it’s possible to minimize authority, loosen your self-boundaries and pretend it’s all a game when nobody is responding to you in person. If only people could just do what we do and pretend their mother can see everything they post online. Hey, if it works, it works!

2. Reverse Psychology

If you’re a parent, you’ve likely used reverse psychology to get your kids to do what you want. For instance, if they don’t want to eat their dinner, and then you tell them they’re not allowed to eat dinner, odds are they will. Reverse psychology relies on reactance, where a person responds negatively to persuasion, and instead responds to the thing that they’re persuaded not to do. Even if you’re not a parent, you’ve likely used it on family members, partners, or coworkers.

Reverse psychology dates back as far as human behavior, with a notable example in the 1700s. Apparently, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, while imprisoned during the Seven Years’ War, ate a whole lot of potatoes. In France, potatoes were frowned on, and only fed to animals. French Parliament even outlawed potatoes in 1748, because they thought that they caused leprosy. When Antoine-Augustin got back to France in 1763 he started thinking about overcoming the bias against potatoes, because he knew they were very nutritious. One story says that he planted a potato patch and hired a guard to protect it, spreading the rumor that he was growing something special in there. Of course, people snuck in to steal the potatoes, and they decided they were a-ok.

1. Overview Effect

The last entry on our list is a psychological phenomenon most of us won’t experience. It’s the Overview Effect – the sensation that astronauts feel when they see the Earth as a whole. Six astronauts were interviewed by Inverse, and the experience of seeing Earth from space made them change how they saw their planet, and their relationship to it. The term Overview Effect was created by Frank White to describe the experience of seeing the Earth as part of something bigger. Makes sense, since when we live on the Earth the Earth is plenty big for us to consider. What would the world be like if everyone could look at the universe in a different way? Read those testimonials from the six astronauts interviewed and you’ll get an idea.

Our brains are strange and wonderful places, capable of greatness and atrocity. An understanding of how the brain works might help us avoid the latter, but it will surely help us strive to the former.


WIF Mind Games –

Psychological Phenomena

Caves and Water Beware! – WIF Geography

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Unearthly

Underwater

Cave Systems

Tourist Traps

Underwater caves are alluring, fascinating, and also a no-go zone for most explorers. While the subterranean zones known as caves capture our imagination, those that are underwater go a step further and significantly raise the danger factor. Not just flooded tunnels or inundated sea caves, many underwater cave systems extend for hundreds of miles, emerging in the middle of rain forest surrounded by land, but connecting to distant waterways. In this account, we discover the most spectacular and sometimes deadly subterranean aquascapes our world conceals.

10. Sac Actun Cave System

Mexico is known to harbor some of the most remarkable ruins, beaches and forests on the planet, but it is also a land of truly monumental Cuevas submarinas, underwater caves. Underwater cave systems in Mexico include watery labyrinths so large and extensive that they have yet to be fully explored. In one dramatic case, two cave systems were found to be an enourmous single system when a connetion was discovered.

Determined to be the largest cave system on the planet, the Sac Actun Cave System was discovered to be one giant cave system totaling 215 miles in passageway lengths when connections between a smaller existing cave system, the Dos Ojos and the larger Sac Actun system were discovered. The cave system known as a cenote is filled with large quantities of fresh water that flow and rise to the surface like a strange river below the surface. Such a vast and complex cave must be explored with extreme caution due to the difficulty in finding one’s way back to the entrance if disoriented.

9. Boesmansgat Sinkhole

One of the creepiest and most deadly underwater caves on Earth, a sinkhole in Africa turns a rugged farm landscape into a rather unexpected and out of place portal to a watery hell. Vertical in shape, about 889 feet deep and 328 feet across, the potentially lethal Boesmansgat Sinkhole is a greenish, eerie water filled cave that plunges straight down into the depths of eroded and dissolved dolomite rocks. Nested amongst craggy rocks, the entrance to the cave would appear just to be an awkwardly placed farm pond, but its moderate size holds horrific secrets.

Located on a farm in South Africa, the watery pit is often completely engulfed in pond plants, making its surface appear an alien green. The rocky sides of the sinkhole rise as cliffs well above the water line, standing out amongst the surrounding vegetation. And are some of the nutrients to grow the floating pod plants and algae provided by bodies remaining in the water? Possibly. Unfortunately, a number of grisly deaths have occurred as divers, some of them recognized as experts in the field, failed to return from the impossibly deep, stagnant water filled pit.

8. Ordinskaya Cave

Russia may be known as a land of taiga, icy roads and tundra, but the country is diverse and contains some remarkable underwater subterranean assets. And one of the most famous is characterized by not only crystal clear water, but actual crystal composition consisting of gypsum, together with an incredible underground extent. Located in Russia close to the Kungur River in the Perm region, Ordinskaya Cave is a popular cave diving destination and an All-Russia National Monument.

Stretching for over 3 miles, the mysterious, cold and dark cave is the most significant gypsum cave under the Earth, where water combines with tunnels of the Calcium Sulfate Di-hydrate crystals known as gypsum. In this cave, the waters are clear to the point where explorers can see up to 150 feet ahead. Enlarged by the eroding action of the water, the soft gypsum is fragile but mysterious and extraordinarily dramatic in appearance. Eroded chunks in crystalline shapes form blocks, pyramids and spires, coupled with the cold water, which may reach minus 9 degrees Fahrenheit at water depths of over 50 feet.

7. Bahamas Caves

The Bahamas may be seen as an idyllic getaway destination, but the Bahamas Caves actually represent one of the most dangerous submerged cave networks on the planet. Filled with sharp hazards, dark and disorienting and contaminated with toxic natural chemical deposits, the site demands great care. Sharp mineral deposits could deliver a puncturing injury, while hydrogen sulfide accumulations require a wary approach. Known as inland blue holes, the Bahamas Caves are hydro-geologically connected to the ocean.

Yet, tidal flow is sharply reduced, causing saltwater in the cave to be covered with a thin layer of freshwater. Tropical environments, combined with a lack of air circulation, accumulation of organic material and a highly limited level of water inflow and outflow creates the “perfect storm” of underwater, subterranean biochemical noxious hazards. In this stagnant and oxygen deprived environment, anaerobic activity causes the proliferation of bacteria. And these bacteria release the hydrogen sulfide that frequently sickens explorers of the caves and could kill a diver. Symptoms of disorientation from even moderate levels of exposure certainly go a long way to increasing the risk of getting lost in the underwater passages and drowning.

6. Plura

Norway is known for its breathtaking fjords, but a deadly, dramatic and strange underwater cave and waterway system that is lesser known but cold and convoluted also presents great intrigue in this Nordic country. In the centrally located Plurdalen Valley, a bizarre pond is located, known as the Plura. But it is actually not a normal pond, but the sudden exit of an underwater river. Diving into the pool takes you into a 1,640 foot passage that exits into a long cave with a water floor and airy ceiling.

After this point, a passage known as a sump, which is also considered to be the deepest sump cave on the planet appears in the cave, descending in a sharp U-shape until it is 443 feet below the surface. The sump rises up into Steinugleflaget cave, and then above Steinugleflaget, an exit is located in a cracked hillside 295 feet above the cave. Unfortunately, deaths have occurred due to the treacherous nature of the cold and lonely passages. In one case, a death sparked a highly dangerous yet ultimately successful body recovery effort in the most challenging sections of the cave system.

5. Eagle’s Nest Spring

Florida is a land known for the Everglades, but the area contains much more than swampy surrounds stocked with prowling alligators. Florida is also a land that conceals water filled tunnels, naturally occurring and snaking their way below the surface of the Earth. Located in Florida, the caves of Eagle’s Nest Spring descend around 300 feet below the Earth’s surface, twisting into scarily narrow and dark passageways entirely filled with water. Despite its appeal, the exotic cave system has claimed lives due to its treacherous nature that still appeals to intrepid explorers willing to take the ultimate risk.

Since 1981, the snakelike maze that defines the layout of the underwater cave system of Eagle’s Nest has taken 10 lives to a watery grave. The sinkhole derived cave system has the shape of a kitchen sink pipe, descending down and up in a U-pattern. Alluring, the underwater cave system is concealed at its entrance by a deceptively normal looking pond, surrounded by dreamy looking trees, and a water body through which the cave must be accessed. However, the ability of the cave to disorient and entrap makes it a genuinely risky adventure, even to experienced divers.

4. Grotto Azzurra

While many of the most notorious caves described in this account are dungeon-like and known to be potential death traps, certain caves are less akin to demonic legends and more strongly associated with angelic accounts of folklore. An iconic sea cave, the Grotto Azzurra of Italy in the Capri area is beautiful, almost perfectly hidden yet absolutely spectacular once accessed.

The Grotto Azzurra is entered through a mere 3.2 foot entrance that is reached directly from the sea. Upon entry, the cave extends with an arcing roof and spectacular blue water, giving the cavern the appealing name. So spectacular is this location, which remained known to local fisherman but unknown to the rest of the world for centuries, that it served as a shrine to a sea nymph in Roman times. The cave system has been formed through focusing of the forces of erosion over time, giving rise to a mysterious yet iconic form that mixes the subterranean with the oceanic in its composition.

3. Chaudanne Spring Cave

Switzerland might be most famous for its towering mountains, but it is also a land of subterranean lakes and underwater cave systems. In Switzerland, a cave system plunges far below the ground into portions of the Earth’s crust in a lesser known valley. Located in the “Vaudoise” Alps, the Chaudanne Spring Cave is located close to the town of Rossinière and was first explored in 1960. The depth of the system has so far been measured to a depth of 525 feet.

Known to be the deepest cave in the entire country of Switzerland, the spring-fed waters of the cave conceal mysterious passageways that have been explored in some daring attempts making use of rather makeshift means. Homemade equipment was used by pioneering explorers, including Michael Walz, to dive to 160 meters in 2006, while an exploration group dedicated to further mapping and documentation of the cave is active and well organized to plumb new depths as the exploration of the system advances.

2. Caves of Nanumanga

Polynesia is not only a place of islands, but a location where noteworthy underwater cave systems exist to capture the imagination of explorers. Among the most mysterious caves on Earth are underwater labyrinths that combine history and Earth science into a mysterious fusion of archaeological intrigue with and ancient geological events defined by more than a small degree of oddity. Descending 121 and 151 feet below sea level, the Caves of Nanumanga are remote underwater caves located in Nanumanga in Tuvalu, western Polynesia.

While newly known, the history of the caves is some of the most ancient and puzzling. Recently discovered by divers exploring the area in which they are located in the year 1986, the caves may have been used by ancient inhabitants at a different time, as indicated by what looked like burn marks. While exceedingly unusual as an underwater discovery, the burn marks from ancient combustion in what are now submerged geological formations clearly indicate dramatic events, such as apparent sea level changes that now leaves the caves below the surface.

1. Daxing Spring

Karst is not unique to Germany, though the limestone forms of spectacular height and oddity define the Karst region, China is a world center of excellence when it comes to stunning Karst environments. Located in Du’an county, Guanxi Province, People’s Republic of China, the caves of Daxing Spring are formed out of the subterranean portions of the spectacular and exceptionally exotic Karst landscapes of eroded limestone that constitute the unusual geography of the region.

Amongst the eroded and pitted structures are caves descending under the Earth, many of them carved and expanded by flowing water. Water movement erodes limestone by pressure but also dissolves limestone chemically, increasing the size, length and depth of cave systems over time. Due to the amount of water in the porous subterranean landscapes, many of the caves are flooded, forming aquatic tunnels that can only be reached by divers. Diving in this spectacular, but potentially hazardous and geologically complex area requires careful safety measures include ample decompression due to the depths of the winding and watery cave system.


Caves and Water Beware! –

WIF Geography

Hope 4 Humanity – WIF Inventions

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Inventions That

Will Give You

Hope for Humanity

Some days, it can seem that the best minds on earth are all preoccupied with projects like developing robot soldierslaunching crypto-currencies, and designing slot machines. While those activities may (arguably) have some societal value, it’s hard to see their primary mission as unambiguously beneficial. But don’t lose all faith in humanity. Below are 10 examples of inventions that may not make a ton of money and may not make their creators famous, but do make the world a better place…

10. Prosthetic dolphin tail

Winter the dolphin did not have an easy start in life. At 3-months-old, she was found by a fisherman tangled in a crab trap line. Winter, named after the season in which she was found, was cut from the line by the fisherman, who then called in a rescue crew. Despite the best efforts of the marine hospital where she was taken, the line had cut off circulation to her tail fluke and it was lost, along with two vertebrae. Normally, this is a fatal injury for a dolphin, but, in her new aquarium home, Winter learned to swim using a shark-like side-to-side motion (instead of the usual up-and-down motion dolphins usually employ with their tails) and using her flippers for momentum. While this provided a temporary solution, the unnatural motion posed a long-term risk of scoliosis and Winter’s health was worsening.

Enter Kevin Carroll and Dan Strzempka, two prostheses with Hanger Orthopedic Group. Carroll heard Winter’s story on the radio, and convinced his colleague Strzempka, who also happened to be an amputee, that they could help. Carroll and Strzempka quickly volunteered to try to craft a prosthetic tail for Winter. While aquarium staff initially thought Carroll’s call was a prank, they quickly agreed to let the men, who offered their work pro-bono, work with a team of trainers and vets to try to find a solution. After several iterations, the team developed a viable prosthetic tail for Winter, as well as a gel that provides cushioning for the prosthesis. Not only was Winter able to swim normally again, her story, which spawned the movie Dolphin Taleprovided inspiration for people all over the world, including children with disabilities and wounded soldiers. Additionally, the gel that Carroll and Strzempka developed has also helped human amputees manage their prostheses.

9. An anti-tremor spoon

While working on his doctorate, engineer Anupam Pathak worked with the Army Research Lab, looking for ways to stabilize rifles for soldiers in combat. Pathak succeeded in identifying ways to make the hardware for motion cancellation very small and realized his innovation had the potential to help another group of people needing steady hands—those with Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s Disease.

One of the most salient impacts of those diseases comes when patients eat. Often, hand and arm tremors make it impossible for those experiencing them to feed themselves. However, Pathak worked to refine and commercialize his technology to make a spoon that would cancel out the tremors, giving patients back their autonomy over one of their daily functions. Using Pathak’s motion cancellation technology, the Liftware Steady spoon cancels out more than 70% of shaking, allowing many of those with hand tremors to feed themselves. The company was acquired by Google and has since reduced the price of its products, and introduced a second product—the Liftware Level, a spoon which assists those with limited hand and arm mobility by keeping the utensil level, even when the hand moves unpredictably. One user with Essential Tremor explained the impact of this device on her life, noting that the Liftware spoon made eating less embarrassing and gave her more confidence, making eating enjoyable again.

8. Railway tunnels for turtles

What happens when Japan’s high-speed trains meet its low speed turtles? In the past, it hasn’t been pretty for either party. Near Kobe, Japan (which is on the coast), turtles trying to cross the tracks sometimes fell in the space between them and couldn’t get up. They’d walk between the tracks until being run over by a passing train or until they got to a junction, at which point they’d get squished during signal switches. This wasn’t just a problem for the turtles, but also for the train and its passengers, with turtle-related incidents causing 13 service disruptions between 2002 and 2013.

To combat the turtle vs. train problem, West Japan Railway Co. partnered with the Suma Aqualife Park to find a solution. They came up with “turtle tunnels,” concrete ditches that pass under the tracks near switch points. If staff find any turtles in the tunnels during their track checks, they rescue them and send them to the aquarium. A train company spokesman noted that, “The system prevents turtles from getting into accidents and avoids causing trouble for our passengers. We hope to continue using it.”

7. Biodegradable 6-pack rings

Plastic packaging poses a threat to wildlife on land and in the sea. The Pacific Ocean has a “garbage patch” made up of almost 80,000 tons of discarded plastic, covering an area three times the size of France, posing a threat to the sea life it encounters, who can be entangled and killed in the floating trash pile. While plastic 6-pack rings (that hold cans of soda or beer) make up a tiny fraction of the discarded plastic, consumers have long been warned to cut them up before discarding them, because they can injure or kill animals that become trapped in them.

However, one company, E6PR, has come up with an even better way to ensure that animals don’t become victims. It has created an eco-friendly 6-pack ring, made from by-product waste (wheat and barley) and designed to be compostable. Even if it doesn’t end up in a compost facility, it will break down in weeks and, unlike plastic, won’t hurt animals if they happen to ingest it. The product had its commercial debut in early 2018 on cans of beer from Florida’s Saltwater Brewery. As of mid-2018, the company is working to refine the product and ramp up production to be able to supply the 6-pack to all the beverage manufacturers who want to offer it. That’s a development animals all over the world should want to toast.

6. PARO the robot seal

PARO, an interactive robot that resembles a baby seal, may be best known for its appearance on Aziz Ansari’s sitcom, Master of None. However, PARO, which was designed in Japan, does most of its work in nursing homes and hospitals—helping provide patients with the benefits of animal therapy. Like a trained therapy animal, PARO responds to users’ voice and movements with its own motions and vocalizations. However, unlike real animals, PARO doesn’t need food, breaks, or clean-up, doesn’t play favorites amongst patients, won’t trigger allergies and can be used with patients whose unpredictable behavior might pose a risk to a therapy animal.

In a study of nursing home residents, those who interacted with PARO for an hour twice a week over 12 weeks, showed significant declines in loneliness over the period of the study. For those who worry about the dehumanizing effect robotic therapy animals might have, research suggests that in addition to engaging with PARO, residents who did so were more social with other residents and staff. Another study of dementia patients found that sessions with PARO lessened anxiety, increased social interaction, and helped lethargic patients remain alert.

5. Pugedon recycling receptacle

The Pugedon recycling receptacle aims to address two problems at once—promoting recycling and feeding stray cats and dogs. The machine, which is about the size of a refrigerator, is placed on the street and powered by a solar cell. When someone throws in a recyclable bottle, the machine dispenses food for hungry strays. If users want to empty their water bottles before disposing of them, the machine also funnels that leftover water to a bowl that the strays can access. The profits garnered from the sale of the recyclables pay for the kibble dispensed by the unit. The machine was introduced in Istanbul, Turkey, which is home to more than 150,000 stray cats and dogs. Engin Gargin, the machine’s inventor, said he was inspired by the idea of giving residents a cost-free way to help strays, while improving Turkey’s recycling rates.

One of the concerns with the units was that they would attract hordes of hungry dogs, but according to one article, that has not transpired. In India, the machines were planned with a slightly different user in mind.  Pugedon units have been placed near areas where pet owners walk their dogs, in the hopes that the prospect of a free dinner for their canine companion may encourage residents to recycle.

4. The Upsee harness

Debby Elnatan, an Israeli mother of a son with cerebral palsy, was determined to see her son walk, despite doctors that counseled her that her 2-year-old, “didn’t know what his legs are and has no consciousness of them.” Elnatan worked with her son to build his walking skills, an arduous task. Elnatan says the idea of the Upsee, a harness that attaches a child to an adult, allowing the child to stand upright and to take steps with the support and motion of the adult, came from the “pain and desperation” she experienced while trying to find a way to help her son walk.

A group of 20 families with mobility-challenged children tested an early version of the product, and shared favorable results: the children enjoyed using the harness and the Upsee enabled families to undertake more activities together. The Upsee was put into mass production by Irish company Leckey, and is now improving the lives of children with mobility challenges around the world.

3. Embrace infant warmers

Complications from preterm births are responsible for approximately 1 million infant deaths a year. A major contributing factor to these deaths is the hypothermia many premature babies experience, as they lack the body fat needed to regulate their temperatures. In wealthier settings, where preemies can be placed in incubators in hospitals, they have much better outcomes than those preemies who are born in resource-poor settings, where hospitals may be distant, electricity may be intermittent, and incubators that can cost up to $20,000 just aren’t affordable.

Addressing this gap in care was the challenge faced by Jane Chen, Rahul Panicker, Linus Liang, and later, Naganand Murty, who first received the project in a Stanford class called “Design for Extreme Affordability.” Using design thinking and rapid prototyping the team developed the Embrace Infant Warmer, a sleeping-bag type warmer that relies on paraffin pouches for heat and costs hundreds of dollars, instead of thousands. The product has since helped more than 300,000 babies worldwide. In order to ensure the product’s sustainability, the company introduced a for-profit sleep sack, the sales of which support charitable distribution of the Embrace Warmers throughout the developing world.

2. Lifestraw water filter

The Lifestraw story begins with Guinea worm, a tropical parasite that incapacitates those who consume its larvae by drinking unclean water. In 1986, Guinea worm disease afflicted more than 3.5 million people in Africa and Asia. By 2017, the disease was nearly eradicated, with only about 30 reported cases. One of the factors driving down the incidence of the disease was a filter developed by Vestergaard, a Swiss-based company, which removes Guinea worm larvae from drinking water.

After its success with the Guinea worm filter, Vestergaard turned its attention to dealing with other water contaminants. In 2005, it introduced the LifeStraw, a personal straw-like filter, designed for use in emergency situations and in the developing world, where clean drinking water may not be easily accessible. Today, the company offers a range of products based around this idea, from water bottles for hikers to larger community-level water purification systems. For each product purchased, the company commits to providing clean water (via school-based systems) to a child in the developing world for a year. LifeStraw’s philanthropic efforts have provided clean water to more than 1 million children in the developing world.

1. Be My Eyes App

The idea for this app, which helps people who are visually impaired by crowdsourcing volunteer assistance with short, simple tasks, came from founder Hans Wiberg’s own experiences as a visually impaired individual. Wiberg’s blind friends shared that they often relied on FaceTime or other video phone apps to ask for help from family and friends for help with everyday problems like reading the expiration date on a milk carton or the departure board at a train station, though many of them worried that they were burdening their loved ones with a plethora of micro-tasks.

Wiberg saw an opportunity to connect the visually impaired with a network of volunteers who could help with things like identifying the contents of cans, or reading the amount of an electric bill. After pitching his idea at 2012’s Startup Weekend in Aarhus, Denmark, Wiberg quickly connected with a team that helped turn the idea into a reality, and the free mobile app was launched for iOS in 2015 and Android in 2017. Since the app’s launch, more than 80,000 blind and visually impaired individuals have been helped by more than 1.3 million sighted volunteers. There are so many volunteers that they have to be quick to the draw to be able to help; as of late 2017, the app’s response time averaged 20 seconds, meaning that most users were able to get help almost as soon as they needed it.


Hope 4 Humanity –

WIF Inventions