(pdf) a proposed study of modern gadgets and their influence on malaysian adolescents
2nd Business Management and Computing Research Colloquium, July 2021
with National Youth Day. It was established under the Youth
Societies and Youth Development Act 2007 (Act 668) and it is
in line with the 10thNational Youth Development Action Plan
i.e. Research and Development Core. IYRES which was
formerly known as IPPBM (Institut Penyelidikan Pembangunan
Belia Malaysia) was renamed by the Honorable Brig. Jen.
Khairy Jamaluddin, the Minister of Youth and Sports on
February 6, 2021. IYRES as a statutory body is responsible to
carry out research on youth development, analyze current issues
related to youths, evaluate and provide input references to the
stakeholders of youth developments and cooperation, coordinate
and participate in the programmes or youth development
activities conducted by national and international organizations.
Basically, there are thirteen research themes that IYRES focuses
on i.e. self-development, self-potential, social relations, identity,
political socialization, independent deviant behaviors,
education, health, media usage, leisure, economics welfare,
aboriginality as well as ethnicity. In addition, twelve journals
have been published related to the media usage in the Journal of
Youth Studies (MJYS) between the years 2010-2021. These
include the studies on the internet, YouTube, mass media,
Facebook, multimedia, 1Malaysia Computers, emails and social
media as shown in Figure 1 below.
Fig. 1.IYRES media related publications in MJYS
Previous studies related to modern gadgets’ influence on
youths solely covered political, health, and educational issues.
The use of alternative media such as the internet, WhatsApp
Messenger, Twitter and short message service (SMS) to name a
few has expanded sources of information, especially among
young people in urban areas . This situation has changed the
political landscape of the country and thus, has triggered the
democratization of information which is much faster and
accessible beyond time and place as compared to the mainstream
media . On the other hand, it is argued that the use of a
mobile phone for instance, for more than two hours a day causes
symptoms of drowsiness that will interfere with one’s cognitive
and learning ability . This is further supported that the
extreme use of such gadgets may impact individual’s mental
development negatively .
Meanwhile, some findings  showed that modern gadgets
may trigger addictions, health impacts and changes in
individual’s lifestyle which other studies also pointed out that
such obsession towards modern gadgets may result in
psychologicaland mental health reduction among theyouths
, . As we become more increasingly reliant and absorbed
in technology, it is revealed that it is one of the challenges faced
by parents in order to instill good values and morals in their
youths who spend an average of ten hours and forty-minutes per
day exposed to media . Moreover, being addicted to the
technology has led the young adults to lose an interest in face-
to-face interactions with parents and other family members and
subsequently to other alarming social disapprovals such as
pornography viewing and sexual risk behaviour. Technology
addiction among the adolescents will take over the family
relationship and family occasions , , . Meanwhile, some
researchers believe the excessive exposure towards new media
use since childhood will dangerously challenge the Malay
community value system and will badly affect developmental
issues of children since this is the first generation with unlimited
access using the technology , .
On the pro side, there is an argument that the use of modern
gadgets gives enormous benefits in education particularly in
virtual teaching and learning. Based on a study conducted, it was
found that the use of modern gadgets will improve the efficiency
of information access in completing for instance, a paper work
apart from other factors that it saves time and easy to use whether
in the classroom or at home . However, digital learning in
this era is a big challenge for educators and teaching staff to keep
up as it is completely different from the things to which they are
accustomed . Therefore, in order to meet the demands of an
increasinglytechnological world, the educators and
administrators should have high awareness of the technological
integration into the academic curriculum. This is to ensure that
the knowledge is consistent with the current teaching and
learning requirements and thereby, it will become the source of
some valuable innovations that can be of great use to the
Again on the pro side, whether they realize it or not,
communicating with and navigating through social media such
as Facebook and Twitter can change the negative side of the
young adults who are shy to socialize. Not only that, social
media will also increase children’s visual reasoning skills,
increase reading speed, foster attention to details as well as hand-
eye coordination . In addition, the use of modern gadgets in
pedagogy is in line with the current educational environment and
yet its merits depend on the means and methods of its use ,
, . In another study conducted, it was found that young
indigenous people in Selangor, Malaysia have adopted modern
technology which enables them to progress academically and
socially in today’s interactive environment . Evidently,
based on the studies mentioned, modern gadgets generally affect
the young adults in both ways i.e. positively and negatively in
terms of emotional maturity, cognitive development, health,
education and spiritual growth.
Top 10 modern gadgets that changed our lives — listverse
It is impossible to deny, that we are now well and truly in the digital age. Resistance is futile.
Ambitious, if slightly extraordinary concepts in films such as Tron, Blade Runner, Back to the Future and more recently I, Robot, gave us a ‘glimpse’ of what the future may hold, but how far away are we really from witnessing the ideas of these over-stimulated directors come to fruition?
Unfortunately, we are still some way off being able to pop to the shop on a Marty McFly Mattel hoverboard, but that is not for the want of trying. Many designs and prototypes have been made, but none have come close to reproducing the experience depicted in the film.
The idea of human-built robots uprising and attempting to overthrow their creators is nothing new, and the Japanese are currently leading the way in designing and building eerily life-like robots, but the threat of a rebellion is about as likely as a DeLorean actually traveling Back to the Future.
So what gadgets are readily available to us?
To first understand this, we must consider how they have come about. Consumerism and the modern way of living have demanded that our gadgets operate in a certain way, as the following are expected of them:
1. Information/Labour-saver – A gadget must either make menial tasks easier, or provide us with information.
2. Efficiency – Speaks for itself.
3. Speed – If it is going to take longer than doing it the old fashioned way, then what is the point?
4. Compactness/Mobility – No gadget can really honor that title if it does not at least have a mobile counterpart.
5. Look – It needs to look cool, futuristic, and mysterious!
The key, which has already been mentioned, is digital. Watches were digitalized, then along came the internet, then radio and TV were given the digital treatment – so below is a list of the top 10 gadgets that can truly claim to have changed our lives or the way we interact with our environment and other people. [This is a guest post by Yang, who’s interested in all the quirky but cool things in the world. She’s also good at creative stag and hen do ideas.]
Paved the way for the 3DS and PS Vitas of today, and made school bus journeys and rainy lunchtimes a pleasant experience after all. Nothing like it had really been seen before, and although the graphics were shady (pun intended) it was the first step of a revolution in mobile game-play.
From early models to the the latest iPod Touch, Apple truly reinvented the way in which we listen to – and have instant access to – music. Gone are the days of having to carry a boombox like a bazooka on your shoulder, or a carry-case of your favorite CDs along with an un-pocket friendly walkman/CD player. The latest Touch boasts Face Time, HD Video Recording, Retina Display, Air Play, Music iTunes, Games Apps, iOS, iCloud, Air Print and Voice Control.
Perhaps not really taking off as an individual gadget in its own right, the birth of the webcam certainly influenced the way modern technology is built today. Very few laptops are now made without a built-in webcam, and the cameras on phones are utilized to allow video calling. It meant that computer software such as Skype allows meetings to be held over long distances, and friends and family can stay in touch in a more personal way than just being able to hear their voice.
Satnavs and TomTom’s have more or less made the road map redundant, which is all you can ask from a modern gadget. Gone are the days of sitting on the side of the road whilst Dad spreads his A3 map on the car hood. They are fun too, with downloadable celebrity voices allowing the likes of Homer Simpson to frantically tell you which turn to take.
Considered as a better option to the iPad, and unlike its Apple counterpart, the 7 inch touch screen gadget supports flash as well as voice and video calls. Completely re-imagining the laptop, Tablets, Kindles and the like are becoming more powerful and more compact with each new release, and the possibilities and use of them are all but endless.
A technology that almost snuck up on us like a highly trained ninja, bluetooth has now become so mainstream and synonymous with the 21st Century it is a wonder how we ever lived without it. The applications for it are endless, allowing us to wirelessly transmit data between phones, PCs, TVs, and even allow us to wirelessly use our phones whilst driving, meaning bluetooth can help avoid an unwanted run-in with the boys in blue.
Although it must be said that photos produced from a polaroid retain a certain charm, it certainly was not fun when you realized that the film was full, and a trip to go and get it developed was required. Now, you can take countless photos and not only view them instantly, but have them uploaded and printed within an instant, and the quality of picture keeps on improving.
All from the comfort of your armchair, the remote control allows you to tell your Sky HD box to pause live TV if the double glazing salesman decides to pay a visit just as it looks like your football team is about to concede, then fast forward to real time so that you don’t have to witness it. It allows you to rewind, record other programs whilst you watch something else, record whole series, and view it all in spectacular High Definition.
We all remember a time when we would visit our nan, and she would still have an old black and white box telly. Well not anymore. Flat screen, digital, and now 3D TV is literally staring you square in the face. Already incorporated in most cinemas, 3D technology, whilst perhaps still in the early stages of development, is a very exciting prospect indeed.
Android, iPhone and Smartphones have literally redefined the way we live. Now, a mobile does not simply make calls, take photos, and allow us to play Snake. They can talk to each other, to laptops, to TVs – to pretty much anything with a digital pulse. You can watch films on them, have instant access to YouTube and Facebook, play PROPER games, store ALL of your music, and more, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Humans have proudly achieved more through sheer intellect and manipulation of their environment than any of their contemporaries. We can grow artificial tissues and use lasers in surgery. However, many of the breakthroughs of which we are so proud are only known or available to the upper echelons of our society, and the lifestyles of others remain completely unaffected. It is difficult to write any comprehensive list, but nevertheless here are ten (the first list of two) breakthroughs which literally changed the lives of close to every human on the planet. Each one is important in its own right, so they are in order of chronology instead of significance (the second list will continue in time order), but as many developed concurrently or have at best inexact dates; this order is only very approximate, and several have been instead better grouped by topic.
Logical thought, also called scientific thought, is the process of reasoning and testing in order to deduce the truth in any situation so that it may be more widely applied. For example, noting that every time anyone eats a certain berry they grow sick and die leads to the conclusion that the berry is likely poisonous. However, noting that when one ate a certain fruit the rain began to fall should not lead to a conclusion of ‘eating fruit makes it rain’ because the process has not been repeated or tested to confirm the link. A large number of animals are able to make such connections without testing them logically. Many superstitions are a result of illogical connections, where a coincidence that occurs once or twice is wrongfully interpreted. Several ancient civilizations even developed priest-kings who interpreted various signs according to increasingly complex superstitions and often produced bizarre or destructive behaviors. The ability to think with increasing logic allowed humans to make important links with far-reaching consequences in every field of human endeavor. Every advance is thanks to our capacity to think logically and search for connections so that we may gradually build a better world for ourselves.
Apes, and indeed many other animals, have been making tools for millions of years. However, very few ever venture to refashion stones. Tools made of leaves and wood tend to rot or wear away, but stone tools are much more permanent, and therefore lend themselves to better and better shaping towards their purpose over time. A spearhead, after a hunt, can be retrieved and refined so that the next hunt is easier. Hunting suddenly became much more successful. Stone tools and the need for more refined tool making require a greater intellect and imagination than that of most animals, and so the humans with better brains made better tools, enjoyed better lives, and generally lived longer, allowing them time to have more offspring. In shaping stone tools we shaped our own evolution.
Although there are records of chimpanzees, our closest relatives, performing ritualistic fire dances and even wielding flaming branches, humans are the only verified creature to have learnt the art of creating a flame. Fire provides comfort and warmth, but much more importantly, it allows us to cook meat. Our ancestors found that cooked meat was easier and safer to eat, and they rapidly adapted to a diet with more meat in it. Their powerful vegetation-chewing jaws shrank and their brains grew as they hunted more game, an act requiring a relatively high amount of intellect for the planning and communication involved. Fire changed our diets, which subsequently changed our digestive tracts, our jaws and teeth, and was one of the biggest factors in the development of near-modern intelligence. Stone tools may have started us down the road to larger brains, but fire massively accelerated the process. In a relatively short space of time after fire was mastered, the brain size of our ancestors more than doubled.
Rather than live nomadically and follow herds of game around, some groups of early people found they could keep groups of less aggressive creatures confined to a set area and alleviate themselves of the need to constantly travel. This allowed more permanent settlements to be formed, and the people had more free time due to not having to travel so often. Written language became much more useful in keeping track of things, and the extra time gave them the window to develop it. Domestication was applied to plants as well, and basic husbandry began. Breeding became a carefully controlled process. Weaving and other arts could be refined, and trading for goods greatly increased. Instead of having only a few occupations as in a hunter-gatherer society, there were now hundreds of specialist jobs, ranging from metal workers to breeders to primitive vets. No-one was a generalist anymore. Where previously the world population had been only a few million, farming allowed a number approaching the billions. Farming had an internal affect as well: the large stores of food which resulted from farming gave rise to larger and larger numbers of disease-carrying vermin, which in turn made people develop stronger immune systems.
Around six thousand years ago, the wheel began to be used in various parts of the world. Our fascination with it was slow at first, as the lack of smooth roads limited its wider uses. Gradually it took hold and settlements would flatten paths so that wagons could pass, greatly increasing the efficiency of a number of human endeavors. The wheel went on to give birth to the water wheel and the windmill, which gave us power and dramatically reduced the amount of effort needed in farming and food production. Vehicles and chariots began to develop, changing the fate of empires through warfare and travel. Its other offspring are the spinning wheel, enabling the development of various kinds of refined cloth making, potter’s wheels, used to make higher quality and refined pottery, cogs and pulleys, allowing all manner of mechanics to develop, the astrolabe, a device used by great minds to study the movements of the heavens, the propeller, used much later on planes and boats as a means of propulsion, and the steam engine, another great breakthrough discussed below.
Mathematics had a slow beginning, but became highly needed once agriculture developed. Dealing with trading goods and keeping track of larger numbers of animals necessitated counting and manipulation of numbers. As farming grew, people needed not only to count into the hundreds or even thousands, but they also had to be able to add and subtract those numbers. Mathematics allowed far more complex trading, which had up until then been dependent largely upon haggling, and introduced the notion of currency. This revolutionized business and gave rise to economics and true commerce. Mathematics also allowed engineering and astronomy to become independent fields in their own right, and together these formed the basis of much of modern science and technology. More recently, the introduction of Arabic numerals and the place-value system made higher mathematics universally accessible. Up until then, years at university were required before something as simple as multiplication could be understood.
Probably the first metal to be widely used was gold. This is because, unlike many other metals, it naturally occurs in a fairly pure form and is soft enough to be worked by stone tools. Eventually, ancient people realized that heat from fire could be used to extract other quite pure metals from ores (rocks containing small amounts of metal). Copper and tin were extracted and prized for their superior hardness, but were still too soft for many uses until they were combined, probably by accident, and formed bronze, an alloy that is much harder and more useful. Bronze weapons and tools easily outperformed all that had come before them. Farming tools, chariots, armor, and scientific instruments became unrecognizably better. Iron took much longer to be mastered, due to its higher melting point, but when it was, it was found to be an even better metal. People noticed that iron that had come into contact with organic matter formed a near-perfect metal – steel. Steel is more resistant to rust, is easier to weld, and today is cheaply mass-produced and used around the world.
The wide availability of paper was a major factor in the push towards universal literacy. Before paper was easily available, people could generally only write in the dirt or sand, which was impractical for most uses and therefore all but the most intelligent people were not disadvantaged by remaining illiterate. Universal literacy meant writing needed to be simple and efficient, and so complex hieroglyphs became refined and less cumbersome. This new art of easy writing was so persuasive that it passed even to people who had no paper and no opportunity to develop this smooth writing on their own. Widespread literacy and the subsequently developed writing was incredibly useful at storing information and reliably recording knowledge too vast for any one person to be relied upon to remember it all perfectly. The amount of knowledge capable of being maintained by humanity leapt forward. Literacy made communication at distance much more viable, and it was the first small step towards a unified global community.
Paper and writing were useful in recording valuable information, but books needed to be painstakingly written out one by one, and therefore were few in number and devoted only to the most important topics. The printing press allowed entire books to be printed in minutes, making knowledge much more widely available and enabling books to encompass a much broader range of subjects. The total amount and range of knowledge capable of being stored by humanity increased almost exponentially, and the availability of books and knowledge made education improve and become more widespread. The idea that all children should be academically educated is today almost omnipresent. This was a great milestone in the path towards increasing the average intelligence of the general populace.
Although used by a number of ancient cultures, vaccination became properly understood in the eighteenth century and was carried out on a widespread scale only last century. Most famously, the terrible disease smallpox has been completely extinguished thanks to vaccination. Smallpox was fatal for nearly half of infected adults, and over 80% of infected children. It killed millions of people every year for millennia. A vaccine, initially developed from the milder yet related disease cowpox, was used to produce immunity, and when enough people were vaccinated by 1977, the disease had no-one left to infect and died out. A myriad of other unpleasant and often deadly diseases which plagued our ancestors are now easily avoided thanks to vaccinations at birth and in childhood. Even those who are not vaccinated often benefit as the disease is less likely to spread if enough others are vaccinated. Billions of lives have been saved and the entire human population have better lives thanks to vaccination.
The question “are we alone in the universe?” has rung across countless centuries and cultures. Works of fiction and speculation attempt to address this, but a lack of imagination or budget often restricts alien creatures to appearing as merely slightly modified humans. Even the majority of Earth life, which is in the sea, is much more alien than these. Of all the animals on Earth, our humanoid form takes up an infinitesimal room in the grand list of body types, so even an alien evolving on an Earth-like planet is unlikely to look like us. Here we cover ten works of fiction which begin to properly explore the real possibilities of alien form. There are many other equally wonderful books that can be read; feel free to suggest any in the comments below. And be warned: there are spoilers in this list.
“Nowhere in space will we rest our eyes upon the familiar shapes of trees and plants, or any of the animals that share our works. Whatsoever life we will meet will be as strange and alien as the nightmare creatures of the ocean abyss, or of the insect empire whose horrors are normally hidden from us by their microscopic scale.” – Arthur C. Clarke
Sphere is a psychological thriller concerning a large alien sphere found in a spaceship detected at the bottom of the sea. The few characters must cope with increasingly unusual circumstances as the capabilities of the sphere become apparent: it bestows psychic powers able to reshape reality itself. Although no aliens appear directly in this novel, Crichton does have the protagonists encounter alien technology and they muse over how unrealistic the casual human idea of an alien must be. Aliens composed of gases, aliens who communicate using odors, and aliens on another plane of existence entirely are thoroughly discussed in this thought-provoking piece. The ‘apes or angels’ hypothesis is encapsulated well in a discussion of how perhaps the sphere was intended by aliens as a test for humanity. One character replies that an insect might find itself caught between gears in a human machine and muse that the machine was intended as a test of its intelligence, when in reality the levels of intellect are so different that the insect was never even considered when the machine was made. Likewise, any aliens we ever encounter are unlikely to be at a technological or mental level similar to our own. They will be primitive animals, ‘apes,’ or so advanced that they will effectively be ‘angels.’
The team of explorers in this comical short story are not directly described, except it is implied that they are plasma-based, as is the norm for galactic life. They are both amused and baffled to discover that on one planet, Earth, life is made of meat. To them, the notion of thinking, talking meat is beyond the ridiculous. In the end they decide to simply ignore the weird abominations and pretend the galaxy is empty, safe in the knowledge that creatures made of meat could never travel beyond their own solar system and discover the truth. This wonderful story provides a strong glimpse into the eyes (or equivalent receptive organs) of aliens aghast at how disgusting and unusual humans appear to be, whilst comically giving a reason as to why no aliens have ever contacted us.
This trilogy of humorous and whimsical books details the travels of Arthur Dent, a fairly ordinary human from Earth who is whisked away into the wider ridiculous galaxy. Many of the huge variety of aliens in this series are given amusing explanations, such as the jatravartids who have fifty arms and therefore developed under-arm deodorant before the wheel. Although most aliens in this entertaining series could be viewed as basically human with only a few changes made, there are several that really stand out as bizarre. The hooloovoo is a super-intelligent shade of blue which can exist in two dimensions and be manipulated by light refraction. There are also the fallen albino marsh worms, who consume hallucinogenic gases from their marshy habitats. Upon death, their stiffened bodies can be smoked like cigarettes, invoking feelings first of exquisite bliss, then admirable curiosity, and finally mild hunger (although only as your brain explodes). Lastly, the infamous babel fish consumes unconscious brainwave frequencies and excretes them again in a form understandable to the speech centers of the brain. When stuck in the ear, they serve as a universal translator, and are at one point used to disprove god, who obligingly ceases to exist.
Lovecraft is famous for his peculiar and horrific depictions of non-human life. In this work of his, he describes the Yith, an alien race capable of switching minds with other lifeforms in different parts of time and space. Using this capability, they have amassed a great library of knowledge, and are able to avoid the destruction of their species at least once by mentally transferring their entire populace into the unsuspecting bodies of other beings, whose own minds are likewise swapped into the Yithian bodies only to die shortly afterwards. The bodies of the Yith, therefore, are not their original bodies, but are nevertheless wonderfully alien. They are cone-shaped, tapering to a narrow neck at the top supporting a head encircled by eyes allowing vision in all directions and several types of tentacles which they use to manipulate objects. The ultimate fate of the Yith is never revealed, for they are always able to safely project themselves through time and space whenever their species is threatened with extinction.
This philosophic piece explores how the fundamental differences in consciousness between humans and aliens would prevent meaningful communication. Space explorers come to a planet that is covered with a single enormous creature resembling a planet-wide ocean. They attempt to communicate with it or even just understand it but are met with constant disappointment. The titular ocean creature itself seems to be curious about the humans, but perhaps thinks and reasons in a more psychic way. It probes the human consciousness, finding weak points in the form of repressed and distressing memories, and replicates these in an attempt to observe or perhaps test the reaction of the humans. The main character, Kevin, finds his dead wife suddenly recreated and is deeply unsettled when he realizes that this phenomena is the work of Solaris. Other characters are visited by their own troubled pasts and ghosts, and the humans gradually begin to realize that their own minds are flawed and not at all understood, making understanding a truly alien mind impossible. The entire expedition results in a distressing and utter failure.
Wells details here the journey of an eccentric scientist and his more level-headed companion as they travel to the moon in a bathysphere made of gravity-repelling material. At first the moon is barren and white, but when dawn comes, a number of marvelous and gigantic plants rapidly sprout and grow. The white surface is revealed to be frozen oxygen, which sublimes under sunlight to become thin breathable air. The plants quickly spread their spores before they wither and die when nightfall comes, two weeks after sunrise. The moon is not solid but is run through completely with tunnels and caverns like a sponge. The interior is inhabited by selenites, strange arthropods in a hive-like society. Selenites, like colony insects, have specific functions, and their body shapes vary vastly to this end. Some have amazing memories and exist as information repositories, replacing the need for books. Others are modified to act as farmers, oarsmen, and even musical instruments. So varied are their forms that the characters in the story have difficulty believing that they are all the same type of creature. Some are only a few centimeters tall, but the greatest in size and intellect is the Grand Lunar. The Grand Lunar is the center of the hive, a vast and ancient being who is the greatest and only independent mind in the moon.
The aliens in this story live in the clouds of Jupiter. A visit to the planet in a newly-developed spaceship reveals the presence of an entire ecosystem. Tiny glowing plankton are buoyant enough to float and are dispersed throughout the air. These are grazed upon by the titanic medusa. The medusa are over a mile long and are gigantic whale-blimps, composed of sparse matter and floating about through the atmosphere. Much smaller, the aerial sharks with their broad fins are only 100m long but hunt the medusa. This was one of the earlier attempts at describing a complete alien bionetwork in an environment fundamentally different to our own, and subsequent works grew increasingly bizarre.
In a parallel universe where the fundamental laws of physics are different to our own, lives a strange species. There are three genders here, each different enough from the others to be considered at a glance to be a separate species in its own right. Tentatively described as being somewhat gelatinous, with at least one alien able to spread her sparse atoms enough to pass through solid rock, these creatures are a far cry from humanity. Their very thought is based on a melding of logic and intuition very unlike our own. They are nurtured and taught by greater beings who uniquely have distinct heads, and who create machines and tools deep underground for unknown and possibly dark purposes. In the end, it is revealed that when the three genders mate for the final time, they combine, solidify, and metamorphose into these larger beings, their ultimate adult form.
The cheela are described as being as intelligent as humans and made up of about the same number of particles, but they are much more dense and therefore smaller due to the stronger gravitational field on their home. Each cheela is a flattened disk only 5mm across and 0.5mm high. More amazingly, their atoms are not bonded as ours are, but instead form a sea of electrons like pure metals do, and neutrons are exchanged almost as freely as electrons. As nuclear reactions occur more rapidly than electron exchanges, the cheela live about a million times faster than humans. The cheela live on the surface of a neutron star, whose intense gravity is what necessitates their bizarre chemistry and shape. Due to their rapid lives, humans are able to observe the cheela develop agriculture and an entire space-faring civilization over only a few days. The cheela come face-to-face with humans but shortly leave them far behind, not wanting to interfere with the development of what has quickly become to them a species with far inferior technology.
Stapledon shows his supremely fertile imagination in this magnificent work of his, a history and future of the entire galaxy, cosmos, and the star maker itself – god. He describes a flock of small birds which has a group mind made up of the organic radio signals between individual birds in the flock. As birds die and are born, the mind itself is constant and immortal and becomes vastly wise. In another place and time, there are plants whose planet’s atmosphere has begun to leech into space and who evolve the means to move and eventually think in order to prevent their own extinction. Further, on one planet vast creatures resembling ships develop with a bizarre culture and caste system dependent heavily on left and right. In one oceanic planet, arachnoids and fish form a symbiosis that results in the fish developing a cavity within their own brain in which the arachnoid lives, and together these combined species colonize the galaxy. The nebulae and stars themselves are revealed to be extraordinarily slow-living creatures who are eventually swept into a cosmic consciousness. If you want hundreds of beautifully explained and truly alien creatures, Star Maker is a must.
Great Britain has a long, storied military history. For every glorious victory and brilliant general, however, there’s an ignominious defeat and blundering fool. The following list presents ten such incompetents.
Poor Edward Braddock always gets a drubbing for his mismanagement of the Monongahela Campaign. But the French and Indian War saw an equally stupid disaster perpetrated by James Abercrombie, who wasted thousands of men in a futile assault against Fort Ticonderoga in July 1758.
The French position at Ticonderoga was not insurmountable. The terrain gave the British a chance to flank the fort without difficulty, while unoccupied hills nearby offered prime artillery positions. “It is rare in military history for a commander to be faced by such a range of options,” notes Geoffrey Regan, “any one of which guaranteed success.”
Instead, Abercrombie opted for a suicidal frontal assault. The result was a bloodbath: 2,000 men fell, including nearly half of the famous “Black Watch” Highland regiment, and the attack was repulsed. Abercrombie lost his job to Edward Amherst, who captured Ticonderoga a year later with fewer men at a fraction of the cost.
The Crimean War (1853-1856) is the apotheosis of British military incompetence, a conflict mismanaged on every level. Presiding over it was Lord Raglan, a former aide to the Duke of Wellington completely out of his depth. “Without the military trappings,” wrote Cecil Woodham-Smith, “one would never have guessed him to be a soldier.”
Raglan was an amiable man but at 65 years-old he was senile and unhealthy. On multiple occasions, he referred to the Russians as “the French,” forgetting France was now his ally. His inability to sort out differences amongst his subordinates, especially cavalry commanders Lucan and Cardigan, led to disaster in Balaclava’s infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.
Raglan blundered into victory at the Alma, making assaults to capture and recapture the same ground and allowing the routed Russians to escape unhindered. His mismanagement of Balaclava turned a potential victory into an epochal gaffe; the Light Brigade’s fate hinged on his inability to articulate a clear order. His troops then hunkered into trenches before Sebastopol, dying of disease and cold from atrocious medical care and inadequate provisions. Raglan suffered along with his troops, and in 1855 died of dysentery.
“A brave man who loved action but feared responsibility for the lives of others” (Byron Farwell), Buller was Britain’s equivalent of Ambrose Burnside. Affable and well-liked, he had no business commanding an army. Early in the Boer War he lost battle after battle, never realizing infantry assaults against well-entrenched opponents rarely works. Spion Kop (January 23-24, 1900) is a representative case.
Buller’s first mistake was delegating responsibility to Charles Warren, his equally incompetent second-in-command. Warren’s lead brigade smashed into the teeth of the Boer position, becoming pinned down between two Boer forces. Without entrenchment tools, artillery support or proper leadership they were forced to endure a brutal crossfire.
Buller’s non-management is inexplicable. He made no effort to reinforce Warren, even calling off a flank attack that may have won the day. 1,700 troops fought while 28,000 remained idle. When Highland troops launched an unauthorized charge he angrily ordered them to withdrawal – after it succeeded! Ultimately 1,500 men died pointlessly. The bright side? Buller and Warren were finally sacked.
As Britain’s commander-in-chief in the Revolutionary War, Howe won several battles and executed one brilliant campaign. But nearly all were Pyrrhic victories, Howe winning the battlefield while forfeiting long-term advantage.
Howe managed the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775, winning a tactical victory only after suffering 30 percent casualties. Howe then offered a passive defense of Boston, playing cards instead of campaigning and ultimately abandoning the city without a fight.
Howe redeemed himself routing George Washington’s army on Long Island and seizing New York City. Howe’s hesitance in attacking Brooklyn Heights, however, allowed Washington to escape. Worse, Howe left scattered outposts throughout New Jersey, allowing Washington easy victories at Trenton and Princeton that winter.
Howe’s final blunder came during 1777’s Saratoga Campaign. John Burgoyne’s New York offensive threatened to split the colonies in two, and Howe was to join in a pincer movement against Horatio Gates’ Continentals. Howe instead marched on Philadelphia. He won a costly victory at Brandywine and captured Philadelphia but again allowed Washington to escape. Meanwhile Burgoyne was trounced by Gates and forced to surrender – an event that brought France into the war. After this debacle, Howe was finally sacked.
Sir John Fortescue described Whitelocke as “bound up indissolubly with foolish expeditions.” He spent most of his career in the West Indies, notably in Britain’s disastrous attempts to conquer Santo Domingo during Touissant L’Overture’s slave revolt. He earns his place here for mismanaging the 1807 Buenos Aires expedition, a costly sideshow of the Napoleonic Wars.
Whitelocke’s troops landed outside Buenos Aires on July 1st and routed a token Spanish force. However, Whitelocke delayed following up, giving local militia time to organize. Whitelocke’s troops marched into the city, only to face a hostile citizenry. Every window housed a sniper, an artilleryman or an angry local with a pot full of boiling oil. Whitelocke exercised little control, allowing his force to be divided and attacked piecemeal in the streets.
Trapped in Buenos Ares, Whitelocke capitulated to Spanish General Liniares on August 12th. He’d lost more than 3,000 of his 10,000-man force in the meantime. He was ignominiously cashiered upon returning to England.
To hear Charles Townshend tell it, he was a genius comparable to Napoleon and Clausewitz. The 43,000 troops lost during the Siege of Kut might beg to differ. Driven by ambition and overconfidence, Townshend led his 6th Indian Division into Britain’s greatest humiliation of World War I.
Ordered to advance on Baghdad in September 1915, Townshend expressed private misgivings. Publicly though, he leaped at the chance for glory, dreaming himself Governor of Mesopotamia. After several initial victories, stiffening Turkish resistance and heavy casualties stopped Townshend’s advance. Ordered to withdraw to Basra, Townshend instead hunkered down in the village of Kut.
Townshend’s men endured a horrific 147-day siege. Townshend made little effort to escape or prevent the Turks from surrounding him. He even forbade sorties on the grounds that “withdrawing” afterwards sapped morale! A hastily-organized relief force lost 23,000 men trying to raise the siege. His troops decimated by starvation and cholera, Townshend finally surrendered on April 29th, 1916.
Townshend enjoyed a cushy captivity in Constantinople while his troops endured forced labor. The British government was so embarrassed by Kut that they censored mention of it. Townshend became a Lieutenant-General, knight and MP, but history remembers him as an arrogant boob.
When Japan entered World War II, Britain was understandably preoccupied with Nazi Germany. The Japanese overran Hong Kong, Malay and Burma in lightning campaigns. The biggest prize, however, was Singapore, the heavily-fortified port considered “the Gibraltar of the East.” Fortunately for Japan, its opponent was the singularly inept Arthur Percival.
Percival apparently occupied a strong position. His 85,000 Commonwealth troops vastly outnumbered Yamashita’s 36,000 Japanese. But his men were badly overstretched, with few tanks or modern planes to oppose Yamashita. Percival’s myopic focus on a naval attack – he believed landward defenses would be “bad for the morale of troops and civilians” – ceded initiative to Yamashita, who navigated the “impassible” Malay jungle and overwhelmed the British. Percival folded with a whimper, surrendering to Yamashita in “the worst disaster in British history” (Winston Churchill).
Unlike Townshend, Percival endured imprisonment just as bad as his men. Percival came out of it worse, however; he became the only Lieutenant-General in British history not to receive a knighthood.
What’s worse than surrendering an entire army? How about utterly destroying one? “A decent, proud, but stupid man” (James M. Perry), MacCarthy inherited a difficult situation as Governor of Africa’s Gold Coast. Ongoing disputes with the powerful Ashanti tribe led to war in 1824. MacCarthy mismanaged the resultant campaign in bizarrely comic fashion.
MacCarthy anticipated a colonial mistake repeated by Custer, Chelmsford and Baratieri. Starting with a 6,000-man force, he divided it into four uneven columns. MacCarthy’s own force numbered a mere 500, against 10,000 Ashanti. When the Ashanti initiated battle on January 20th, the other columns were tens of miles away.
At the battle’s onset, MacCarthy ordered his musicians to play God Save the King, thinking this would scare the Ashanti away. It did not. A ferocious battle ensued, MacCarthy’s troops holding their own until ammunition began running out. Hard-pressed, MacCarthy called up his reserve ammunition, only to find macaroni instead of bullets!
The Ashanti overran and massacred the British force, with only 20 survivors. MacCarthy was killed, his heart eaten and head used as a fetish for years. It took 50 years of intermittent warfare to subdue the Ashanti.
Assigned to suppress the Mahdist Uprising in the Sudan, Hicks led what Winston Churchill called “the worst Army that has ever marched to war” – a rabble of Egyptian prisoners and ex-rebels, some shipped to the front in shackles. Arrogant British officials assumed this paltry force would put the pesky Mohammedans in their place. Hicks proved them wrong.
In fall 1883, Hicks marched his jerry-rigged 10,000-man army into Sudan. Misled by treacherous guides, Hicks’ army fell victim to the desert clime, losing hundreds to desertion and dehydration. On November 3rd, the Mahdists, 40,000 strong, finally pounced at the oasis of El Obeid. After two days of desperate fighting, the army was overrun and massacred, with all but 500 men killed (Hicks included). Hicks’ stupendous failure set the stage for Charles Gordon’s doomed stand at Khartoum and fifteen years of fighting in Sudan.
Britain won the Anglo-Afghan War’s first round, routing Dost Mohammed and capturing Kabul. But the Afghans hated English rule and quickly revolted. Into this firestorm stepped William Elphinstone, the only man to lose an entire British army.
Riddled with gout and heart disease, Elphinstone was a poor choice to command. He arrived in Kabul in 1842, with disaster looming. British encampments were sighted lower than Kabul’s city walls, with provisions located outside them. Afghan bandits murdered Britons who ventured out of camp.
Patrick Macrory characterizes Elphinstone as “[seeking] every man’s advice… he was at the mercy of the last speaker.” Fatally indecisive, he allowed Afghans to kill envoys Alexander Burns and William Macnaghten, capture his supplies and snipe at his men without response. Elphinstone finally capitulated, agreeing to withdraw his army to India.
Elphinstone’s army, accompanied by thousands of camp followers, staggered through the Afghan mountains. Their numbers were whittled down by disease, cold weather and incessant Afghan attacks. In the Khyber passes, the Afghans finally massacred the survivors. A single European, Dr. Brydon, survived of 16,000 who’d left Kabul. Elphinstone himself died in Afghan captivity.
Novelist George Macdonald Fraser aptly called Elphinstone “the greatest military idiot, of our own or any day.”
In a previous list, I took a look at ten cringe-worthy moments in the video gaming industry. This list continues searching for more humiliating moments from the history of video games, although some are based more around the impact they have made on the gaming industry and all those involved.
Every year at E3 has some weird and wacky moments, but 2021’s event really took the cake. From Microsoft’s conference promoting the Kinect (notably the terrifying tiger from Kinectimals) to Ubisoft’s conference being “crashed” by people firing invisible lasers at each other, 2021 was a very awkward and weird year. But the winner was Konami’s conference. The conference can be best described as odd. Konami’s highlights included countless technical faults, some bizarre hosts, Glee popping in for a musical number, a bunch of Mexican wrestlers fighting onstage, one of Silent Hill Downpour’s representatives trying to glare a hole into the back of his associate’s head, and some awkward introductions to new Konami games including Ninety-Nine Nights II Ramble. Needless to say, Konami might want to rethink their onstage shenanigans for their next E3 conference.
Advertised extensively in the movie The Wizard, the Power Glove was implied to be a revolutionary video game gizmo, able to recreate the movements of the user’s hands on a television in real time. However, the Power Glove didn’t appear to be all that impressive. It was criticized for its difficult-to-use controls, and ultimately became one of the console devices that failed to live up to its marketing promises. But the Power Glove has become an icon among the video game community, as a symbol of the NES, and there is even a speed metal band named after it.
Super Mario Bros, Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, Street Fighter, Alone in the Dark, Doom, BloodRayne. The list could go on. Movies based on popular video games have never really done well in the box office. The continuing problem seems to be that the movies in question barely resemble the games they are based upon, not to mention most are pretty shoddy-looking films. There are some exceptions, such as the Professor Layton film, and Silent Hill was better praised for its production design rather than its plot. The biggest contributor to this failing genre is Uwe Boll, considered one of the worst filmmakers ever. His butchering of BloodRayne, Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead has made him a hated figure in the eyes of gamers, but Boll does not seem to care and challenges his critics to boxing matches. Hopefully, video game movies will get better sooner or later, but not with people like Boll directing them.
The CD-i was created by Philips and one of the first game consoles which played CDs. However, the console was an abysmal failure, most notably for its crude attempts at making Mario and The Legend of Zelda games. Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, Zelda’s Adventure and Hotel Mario are among some of the worst games ever created. While the gameplay was bad, it was the fully animated cutscenes that made the games stand out. These games are now used commonly in YouTube Poop’s with their cutscenes used to hilarious measures. Quotes like “Check out the enclosed instruction book” and “All toasters toast toast” will likely be the highlight of the CD-i’s legacy.
How are you gentlemen? All your base are belong to us. That is pretty much what the game Zero Wing is famous for. Considered one of the worst games ever, Zero Wing is infamous for its poorly translated English dialogue, and the above quote has become a popular internet meme similar to the fate of the CD-i.
John Romero is a notable figure in the first person shooter genre, developing several classics like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. But then he got the idea of Daikatana, a first person shooter game involving a magic time traveling sword and a fight to keep the player’s two sidekicks alive without dying. Taking four years to complete, Daikatana’s production process was a bumpy ride. Halfway through the process, Romero realized the designers were behind in the latest technology and switched to a better game engine, leading to eleven months worth of work being discarded. The advertising process was just as painful, with a large red poster promoting Romero’s infamous trash talking. Romero also received extended focus in Time magazine during the game’s development. After numerous setbacks, altered release dates, and the advertising, Daikatana bombed upon release and joined the ranks of dreadful games.
Duke Nukem Forever is on this list for having one of the longest periods of development hell ever – fifteen years worth of it. The game was announced in 1997, switched game engines in 1998, everything got scrapped around 2001-2002, new teasers popped up in 2006, and the entire game’s development team got fired in 2009. And those are just some of the problems that the game and its developers faced. The game was eventually released in 2021, but was met with mixed reviews and a fan base who got fed up of waiting years ago.
While the Wii and Playstation 3 had their issues, the Xbox 360 has the biggest out of the consoles. Since its release, the 360 suffered from internal errors. The now infamously named “Red Ring of Death” on the front of the console flashed red whenever an internal problem occurred, requiring the owners to get the consoles fixed. These major errors included freeze-ups, graphical problems, sound problems, and game discs being scratched inside the console. The Xbox 360’s failure rating grew quickly, eventually gaining the estimate of 54.2% failures. While the console was a financial success, its errors have made it the faultiest of the current game consoles. And the worst part is that Microsoft originally announced a three-year warranty to deal with the damaged consoles, only to release a slimmer version of the console which only has a one-year warranty if it develops problems similar to those of the original.
One of the darker elements of video games is that they can become very addictive and may lead to trouble. Some of extreme cases often end up in the news and only help fuel the fire for those who consider all or most video games to be bad for children and adults. Game addictions can lead to theft, violence, serious psychological damage, and tragic scenarios like murder and suicide. The culprits of the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres have been said to have game addictions. I recommend reading the “Top 10 Cases of Extreme Game Addiction” for individual cases.
This entry is not an embarrassing entry, but more of a tragic one. Gunpei Yokoi was one of the most iconic and influential figures in video games, he helped develop the Game & Watch collection, ROB, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Kid Icarus, Fire Emblem, Metroid and made the successful Game Boy. His only real failure in life was the Virtual Boy. Yokoi eventually left Nintendo after thirty years in the company. However, in 1997, Yokoi was involved in a car accident. While getting out to inspect the damage he had done to a truck, Yokoi was struck by a passing car and died shortly after. His sudden death shocked gamers, and he has been honored as one of the greats in video gaming.
Villains are everywhere. They appear in movies, books, cartoons and even in real life. They plot, scheme and kill, harming the hero and those with him or her for their personal gain. Nonetheless, villains are characters a lot of stories cannot do without. We, as an audience, can feel at least some sense of ease, even before the climax, because we know the villain will meet his downfall. Sometimes, the villain meets his downfall in a literal sense, as we see in the following cases.
Mola Ram was the monster of The Temple of Doom. He and his subjects worshiped a God called Kali Ma, and performed human sacrifices in his name in the most gruesome fashion. He would rip out their hearts, before lowering them into a fiery pit to their deaths. Mola Ram even made people drink a kind of blood that twisted their minds into doing his bidding. Indiana Jones was on a mission to retrieve the sacred stones for the benefit of a starving village. Mola Ram caught up with Indiana and fought with him on a bridge above a stream with crocodiles. Ultimately, Mola Ram fell into the stream, where the crocs devoured him.
Professor Padriac Ratigan was a mouse who wanted to become king of Mousedom. To accomplish this, he had Mr. Flaversham build a robot replica of the queen of mice to claim Ratigan as king. Ratigan threatened Flaversham to build the robot by informing him that Ratigan would have a cat eat Flaversham’s daughter if he did not comply. Ratigan uses cat threats throughout the movie on his subjects for Ratigan’s demands. In the end, Ratigan confronts Detective Basil in a fight atop the Big Ben and Ratigan falls to his death from the top of the great London clock.
The Big Bad Wolf has a craving for little pigs. The three pigs attempt to shield themselves from the wolf with houses. However, the wolf huffs and puffs and blows down the straw house of the first pig, the stick house of the second pig and devours these first two pigs. The third pig, however, builds a brick house and lights a fire. The wolf is unable to blow this house down, so he descends through the chimney to eat the pig. The wolf falls into the fire, where he gets cooked and the pig eats the wolf for supper.
Vincent Crabbe is one of the mates of the newly appointed Death Eater, Draco Malfoy. Harry Potter and his friends are on a mission to find soul-containing objects of dark lord Voldemort, called Horcruxes. Harry must find and destroy these objects, so he can destroy Voldemort. Otherwise, Voldemort’s soul, which is concealed in these objects will give him the ability to come back if his body is destroyed. Harry, Ron and Hermione are searching for one of the Horcruxes in the Room of Requirements, when, Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle appear. Crabbe shoots the killing curse at Hermione, but missed. Then he tries to kill Harry and both his friends with Fiend Fire. After Crabbe sets the Room of Requirements ablaze, the three baddies find themselves trapped. They climb up onto a stack of rubble, but Crabbe loses his footing and falls into the very fire he had made.
Rosina’s father wanted her to marry a rich man named Charlie Kempthorne. Charlie was a greedy, selfish character who cared nothing for others. Nonetheless, Charlie would make sure to have Rosina as his wife, although they had barely met. Rosina’s father forced his daughter into marrying Charlie, even when she refused to do so, physically assaulting Rosina to the point of injuring her. Kempthorne later went on trial on suspicion that the money did not belong to him. He was found guilty of embezzling all the money and was sentenced to death by cliff fall.
“What goes on two legs in the morning, four legs in the afternoon and three legs in the evening.” That is the sphinx’s riddle. The sphinx lived at the top of a cliff, had the body of a lion and the head of a man, and would ask this riddle to everyone who passed by. Nobody was able to guess the answer and the sphinx would always devour the person for being unable to guess correctly. One day, a man answered, “Man. He crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs in his youth and walks with a cane in old age.” The sphinx, furious that he had guessed the correct answer, flew itself from the top of the cliff and was never seen again.
Hans Gruber works with a band of criminals and takes many people of the Nakatomi Plaza hostage on Christmas Eve. Gruber holds the siege with intent to extort the plaza of $640 million from its vault. After Gruber interrogates executive Tagaki for the code to open the vault, Police officer McLane orders the release of the hostages. McLane manages to kill some of Gruber’s accomplices, until Gruber discovers that he can kidnap McLane’s wife Holly. McLane pretends to laugh at Gruber, and while Gruber is distracted by the laughter, shoots Gruber in the shoulder. Gruber falls through the window to the street below.
The Weeping Angels will penetrate your mind, battle you, draw the goodness out of you, that is, only if you happen to close your eyes. Once you see them, they stand, as still as statues, which is actually what they look like. The Weeping Angels are designed to look like statues, while, in reality they are neither statues nor angels, but an evil, manipulating race. Amy Pond sees one, and, not knowing what it is, the angel works its way into her mind. Doctor Who tells her to keep her eyes constantly closed, or it will feed off her optical receptors, ultimately destroying her. When the angels attempt to come on board the doctor’s Tardis, he tips the angels off, sending them falling into the crack of time, where they are erased from existence.
Mufassa the lion, is king of the jungle, and one day, his son Simba will be king. Mufassa’s brother, Scar, is jealous, and will stop at nothing to make himself king. After a failed attempt to have Simba eaten by hyenas, Scar makes Simba roar up a wildebeest stampede that tramples Mufassa to death. Scar blames Simba for his father’s death and Simba gives up his future role as king. One night, an apparition of Mufassa appears and tells Simba he must return as king. Simba returns to Pride Rock, where a fight breaks out between him and his uncle. Scar falls down the cliff face, where the hyenas devour him.
Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant detective who works at solving murder cases. Holmes has a nemesis called Professor Moriarty. Moriarty works with and is a protector of many criminals. He offers them protection from law enforcement if they obey his commands. In the end, however, Holmes pursues Moriarty to Reichenbach Falls and both hero and villain fall to their deaths in mortal combat.
Hot on the heels of the first list of major breakthroughs of humanity, we have the second installment. Here we continue from where we left off – breakthroughs after 1724 (vaccination). If you want to read the original list in case you missed it you can do that here. Be sure to mention any other significant events in man’s history via the comments – obviously listing only 10 items on two lists we can’t cover everything!
Although a number of substances were known for a long time to make people insensible to pain, they were not used in surgery until the nineteenth century. Up until this point, surgery was performed by butchers and their ilk, as it was done with the patient fully conscious (although often inebriated to dull the pain) and as quickly as possible. The patient would violently struggle, scream, and frequently bleed to death in a very short amount of time. Traditionally, a team of people held the patient down, a butcher chopped off the damaged extremity, and the stump was immediately coated with tar to stop the bleeding. Surgery was not done on a fine scale or with any attention to detail, as there simply was not enough time for such things. It was one’s last option, as the surgery more often than not resulted in death. The use of anesthesia allowed doctors the time to work more cautiously, to learn how to stem blood flow more carefully, and to perform increasingly delicate operations. Modern surgery and medicine are thankfully unrecognizable next to their barbaric ancestors. Even in the most underdeveloped countries, eye surgery is fairly common, something unheard of before the dawn of anesthesia.
In 1928, Alexander Fleming showed that the fungus Penicillium notatum could be grown in a special way that caused it to produce a substance he called penicillin. This had the wonderful property of killing many disease-causing bacteria, especially syphilis. In fact, earlier people had used similar fungi to treat illnesses, but never with a systematic, scientific approach. Penicillum was developed into many strains and for the first time, all kinds of incurable diseases were easily eliminated. The idea that a cure could be easily and specifically grown from simple mold was unprecedented, and today we use antibiotics as the modern descendants of the original breakthrough. Cures are found almost as quickly as new bacteria emerge, and bacterial diseases are no longer the formidable threat they once were.
There is a finite amount of farmable land on Earth, which can be used to grow only so much food and in turn support only so many people. Up until the 1940s, this maximum number seemed to have been reached in many countries, with starvation and famine being rife due to there simply not being enough food. The father of the Green Revolution, Dr. Norman Borlaug, studied plant genetics before developing strains of wheat which produced a much higher yield than traditional wheat. This was followed by the development of better rice and other staples. Cereal production in India and many African countries doubled and famine was finally not a normal part of people’s lives. Thanks to Dr. Borlaug, a Nobel laureate, well over a billion more people are able to exist on the Earth today. Arguably, no single person has directly saved or enabled the existence of as many people as Dr. Borlaug.
Although the steam engine has a history that is thousands of years long, it was not used widely until it brought about the industrial revolution. It heralded a new era of mass-production and transportation of goods through the widespread use of engines. It was the first engine to be extensively used around the world, and still today makes up the main power source on Earth: 90% of all the electric power in the world is derived from steam. The steam engine and the large-scale construction and manufacturing it enabled not only reshaped the lives of all in or near the British Empire, but it gave rise to modern capitalism, for which there had been no need by the paltry businesses that had previously existed. Electric lighting, travel by boat and railways, mining, textiles, chemicals, and glass manufacture all increased on a gigantic scale, turning much of the world into a machine of production. Today, even those who live without electricity use products created elsewhere by steam power. The effects of steam power, the Industrial Revolution, and mass-production have become ubiquitous.
Fossil fuels had been used by ancient civilizations for a variety of purposes, but never on a large scale. In the middle ages, coal began to be mined extensively for use by smiths and metalworkers. Coal saw its biggest use at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Intimately connected with the use of the steam engine, fossil fuels provided a rich source of energy. Coal is the most widely used fossil fuel on the planet, although other forms such as liquid oil and various gases are also used. Coal provides much more energy when burnt than an equivalent mass of wood, and when a large quantity of fuel is needed, fossil fuels are more economical and less wasteful. Fossil fuels allowed the steam engine to proliferate and enabled electricity to be given to the world.
The use of steam power and the widespread use of large transport vehicles such as trains and ships gave rise to the natural human desire to refine what they already had to a more delicate scale. A personal transportation machine, a steam-powered carriage, was the dream of many. Several prototypes were produced, but all had various problems and were not suitable for widespread use. When the internal combustion engine, a specialized steam engine, was developed, it began to be adapted for automobiles. The technology developed, but was never entirely successful until Karl Benz created what is acknowledged as the first modern automobile in 1885. Gradually, the usefulness of these cars was seen and production steadily increased. There nearly a billion cars and small trucks being used on roads today, and although most people do not yet own their own car as has always been dreamed, many villages have one car which is shared between all the villagers in case of emergency. Cars are used all over the world when urgent travel is needed. The very layout of every city on earth is dictated by roads for use by cars.
Since our vague beginnings, humans have clung to the Earth, only able to gaze longingly at the divine freedom enjoyed by flying creatures. Around the world, all kinds of ancient myths and legends concern people taking flight as a sign of divinity or hubris. Kites and gliders were keenly investigated, but these could not, in their early form, carry the weight of a single skyward-yearning man. The first glider to support a man was built in 1853, and further developments lead to the controlled and powered flight of the Wright brothers. Aeroplane designs have been greatly modified since that time, but the use of an engine for propulsion and a body shape for lift remain constant. Today, flight still captivates the imagination, and it has played a major role in exploration, travel, and warfare. Even people in developing countries who might never fly themselves are often given aid via airplane.
With the ease of inter-continental travel, communication between distant people became the norm. Postal services struggled to keep up with people who were increasingly used to the notion of speedy replies. Smoke signals, flags, and fires have all been used, but never widely. The availability of electricity in the Industrial Revolution enabled the development of the telegraph wire, which was used with Morse Code to transmit messages across thousands of miles instantly. Further developments in the new field of electricity and electronics allowed the telegraph to evolve into the telephone, which could convert sound into current at one end and back into sound again at the other end. Incredibly, people could speak to one another when they were on opposite sides of the Earth. Instant communication has sped up business, reshaped warfare, and has changed the standards at which we live our lives in ways too numerous to mention. Very nearly every human settlement on earth has telephone access, and telecommunications are now less dependent on wires and have developed into instant messages, email, and data transfer. The amount of information available to people has drastically increased, just as the effective distance between foreign people has decreased through telecommunication-induced globalization.
This was what enabled Dr. Borlaug to create better strains of wheat. The understanding of the heritability of traits has always been with people, if only in a vague sense. After all, children resemble their parents, and livestock can be selectively bred. Direct manipulation of genes, a more accurate and accelerated form of genetic manipulation through clever breeding and directed evolution, first occurred in 1973. A number of medicines and other substances used today are produced from bacteria and yeasts which have been genetically manipulated. Insulin, vaccines, multivitamins, and all manner of antibiotics used today are produced through simple genetic manipulation. There is even research in the direction of growing whole organs from a single cell for the purpose of organ transplantation, which has been met with some success but is not yet ready for wide-scale use. Similarly grown meat tissue might eliminate the need for farming animals, and genetically modified bacteria can be used to clean up oil spills and nuclear waste. With genetic modification, we can and have improved the lives of billions of humans and innumerable other animals.
In the past, abacuses and other instruments have been used to help with human mathematical computations. The first machine to be able to store data and perform all four basic arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication) was conceived by Charles Babbage and was entirely mechanical. The next major development was the mechanical loom of Joseph Jacquard. It wove intricate patterns according to the sequence of holes it detected in paper fed to it, the early beginnings of programming. The computer, in the modern electronic sense, was developed by Alan Turing and used in the Second World War to break the unprecedentedly complex Nazi codes. Computers were originally the size of buildings, but they have since shrunk thanks to advances in the miniaturization of electronics. Computers and telecommunication together gave birth to the World Wide Web. Computers are now used in watches, cars, televisions, phones, and all sorts of other casual everyday items. The public availability of computers has made information accumulation and education increase to levels never seen before, and is the most recent step in a globally aware populace.
A coma is a state of unconsciousness, lasting more than 6 hours in which a person cannot be awakened, fails to respond to painful stimuli, light, sound, and lacks a normal sleep-wake cycle. A coma is caused by injury to either the cerebral cortex or the reticular activating system. It is a serious medical condition that creates brain irregularity and causes people to experience post-traumatic amnesia. Depending on the length of the coma, patients will suffer a different recovery time.
If you have experienced a coma, it generally means that you have gone through a life changing event. Many people are intrigued by the stories of people who have been in a coma and returned to life. In some cases, bright lights and vivid dreams are reported. Almost everyone who has experienced a coma comes out of the experience with a different outlook on life, often time not fearing death and making life changes. This article will examine ten celebrities who experienced a coma and lived to tell the story.
Some notable people who were considered for the list, but left out include Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, who fell into a coma after getting spinal meningitis in 1970. American singer Jackie Wilson, who collapsed on-stage in 1975 and subsequently fell into a coma that persisted for nearly nine years, Wilson was left out because he never made a full recovery from his coma. Tupac Shakur, who fell into a coma after being shot on September 7, 1996, American actor Eric Roberts, who fell into a coma after a car accident in Westport, Connecticut, and Johnny Cash, who apparently went into a coma after a degenerative nerve disease gave him problems. Little is written about Cash’s coma, but in an interview with Larry King he was quoted: “I went into a coma and I was there for 12 days. They all thought I was dying and they couldn’t diagnose what was wrong with me. They finally came up with a diagnosis of Shy-Drager syndrome.”
Length of Coma: 8 Hours
Burt Reynolds is an American stand-up comedian and actor. His film debut was in 1961. At the urging of his friend Clint Eastwood, Reynolds used his TV fame to secure leading roles in overseas low budget films, commonly called “Spaghetti Westerns.” In the early 1970s, Reynolds claimed that producer Albert R. Broccoli offered him the role of James Bond, after Sean Connery left the franchise. Reynolds turned down the part, saying “An American can’t play James Bond. It just can’t be done.”
On March 15, 1978, Burt Reynolds earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some of his most famous roles include parts in Twilight Zone, Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, and All Dogs Go to Heaven.
In 1983, while Reynolds was working on the movie City Heat with Clint Eastwood, he was hit in the head with a chair and broke his jaw. In response to the pain, Reynolds got hooked on a collection of painkillers and became addicted to the sleeping medication Halcion. In 1992, Reynolds gave an interview and said that he nearly died from Halcion. After becoming addicted, he tried to quit the drug cold turkey. In response, his body experienced an immediate reaction and was sent into a coma for eight or nine hours. Reynolds almost died in the attack.
Coma Experience: Burt Reynolds had an out of body experience during the coma. He said: “I had the whole out of body experience. I heard the doctor say that they were losing me and I was going…”
Length of Coma: 3 Days
Jayceon Taylor, better known by his stage name Game, is an American rapper and actor. In 2005, Game entered the spotlight as a member of 50 Cent’s Hip hop group G-Unit. Taylor saw success with his debut album, The Documentary, which earned him two Grammy Award nominations. Game then followed the record with two more successful albums. Today, Jayceon is considered to be one of the driving forces in reviving the West Coast hip hop scene, which had been overshadowed by artists from the East and South since the death of Tupac Shakur in 1996.
Jayceon Taylor endured many hardships in his adolescence. At the age of 13, one of Taylor’s older brothers, Jevon, was shot to death outside a gas station. After being kicked out of college, Game started to fully embrace life on the street. He began to sell drugs and run with gangs. On October 1, 2001, Taylor was attacked by two men in his apartment. Taylor thought the men were interested in buying drugs, but instead they assaulted him.
Game was shot five times in an execution-style murder attempt. He was forced to lie on the ground for several minutes while the men robbed him. Taylor then used his cell phone to call an ambulance. Due to the severity of his wounds, Game lapsed into a three-day coma and later emerged with a clear motivation to stop selling drugs.
Coma Experience: “Put your lighters up if you want to. Pull your Dodger cap over your eyes, “til you can’t see.” I want you to go blind, so you can feel how I felt, when I was in that coma.” L.A.X Files.
Length of Coma: 3 Days
Stanley Getz was an American jazz saxophone player. He was known as “The Sound” because of his wispy, lyrical tone. Many critics regard Getz as one of the greatest tenor saxophonists in the history of music. He is perhaps best known for popularizing the musical style of bossa nova, which is a fusion of samba and jazz.
In 1964, Getz released his most popular single, The Girl from Ipanema, which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. In 1963, Getz won the Grammy for Best Jazz Performance (Desafinado), which sold over one million copies. In 1964, Getz released the album Jazz Samba Encore, which also sold more than a million copies. In 1991, at the age of 64, Stan Getz won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Solo Performance (I Remember You).
In 1954, Stan Getz was in a bad place and addicted to heroin. After several skirmishes with the law, he tried to ease himself off the drug with a combination of alcohol and barbiturates. In February of 1954 Getz found himself in Seattle, Washington, and was desperate for heroin. He entered a drugstore near his hotel and made a clumsy attempt to rob it (no weapons were involved). Stan pointed his finger at the clerk and demanded morphine. After the clerk asked him to see the gun, Getz ran away.
After being tracked by the police, Stan Locked himself in a hotel room and tried to commit suicide by swallowing a fistful of barbiturates. The police arrested him and a photograph of Stan in the back seat of a patrol car, looking sick and scared, was flashed over the news wire. The overdose took effect minutes after he was put in jail and Stan collapsed. He was rushed to a hospital where doctors performed an emergency tracheotomy. Getz entered into a three-day coma and almost died.
Coma Experience: After emerging from the coma, Getz wrote a letter of apology. “When I came out of the coma three days later, with a breathing-tube inserted in my trachea, I realized that God didn’t want to kill me. This was his warning. Next time, I’m sure he won’t let me live.
“As I lay there alive, not wanting to live because of what I had done to my loved ones and all the people who had tried to help me, the nurse came in with a good many letters, telegrams, and phone messages all saying the same thing. They told me not to despair, that people admired my music, and that I should pray as they were praying for me. Most importantly, the letters said they forgave me.”
Length of Coma: 3 Days
Martin Lawrence is an American actor and stand-up comedian. He came to fame during the 1990s with his own television series, Martin, which ran from 1992 to 1997 and a series of movie roles. In the late 1990s, Lawrence established a lucrative Hollywood career as a leading actor, most notably starring in the films Bad Boys, Blue Streak, and Big Momma’s House. Martin has always been known for his erratic behavior and shock comedy. On February 19, 1994, he hosted Saturday Night Live and made crude remarks about women’s genitalia and personal hygiene.
The monologue was completely edited out of NBC reruns and syndicated versions of the show, and Lawrence was banned from Saturday Night Live for life. In 1996, Martin’s co-star, Tisha Campbell-Martin, filed a lawsuit against Lawrence and the show’s producers for sexual harassment and verbal and physical assaults. The lawsuit eventually ended the show. On May 8, 1996, Martin Lawrence was arrested after he reportedly brandished a pistol and screamed at tourists on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles. He was hospitalized, with a medical report stating “exhaustion and dehydration.” However, a large collection of witnesses say Martin was high on drugs.
In August of 1999, Martin Lawrence decided to take a jog in 100-degree heat while wearing a number of layers of clothing. After running for a while, Martin collapsed from heat exhaustion and was rushed to the hospital. He slipped into a three-day coma and nearly lost his life. When Martin Lawrence was discovered, he had a body temperature of 107 °F (41.7 °C) and needed a respirator to breathe. When the human body becomes overheated, muscles begin to break down into proteins. The kidney, which cleans the blood, becomes clogged with proteins, which can cause coma and death.
Coma Experience: In his first interview after the incident, Martin Lawrence said: “It kind of woke me up and made me appreciate life. I am just happy to be here. Hopefully when you pass on, somebody can look back and say, wow, they made a difference in some kind of way. After the coma I had to learn to walk again and all kinds of stuff. It was a real traumatic experience. You go under and everything just shuts down.”
Length of Coma: 4 Days
Stevland Morris, known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American singer-songwriter and activist. Wonder has been blind since shortly after birth. He signed with Motown Records at the age of eleven and continues to perform and record for Motown to this day. Wonder has recorded more than thirty U.S. top ten hits and received 22 Grammy Awards, which is the most for any male solo artist. Stevie Wonder is also noted for his work as an activist and in 2009 was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
On August 6, 1973, Stevie Wonder was in a serious automobile crash while on tour in North Carolina. During the accident, a car that was being driven by his cousin John Harris slammed into a logging truck. It is unclear exactly what happened after that, but the most popular report says that Wonder was injured by a log that flew off the truck, crashed through the windshield, and hit him in the face. Another account says that the bed of the truck crashed through the windshield and hit Wonder.
The impact of the crash knocked Stevie Wonder unconscious and put him in a coma for 4 days. After he awoke, Wonder suffered partial loss of his sense of smell and received a long gash over his forehead. Despite the setback, Wonder re-appeared in concert at Madison Square Garden in March 1974 with a performance that highlighted his up-tempo material.
Coma Experience: On August 18, 1973 at the hospital, Stevie Wonder gave his first interview since the accident and was dressed in a green fatigue cap. He declined to go into details about the crash, saying he really didn’t remember much. “The only thing I know is that I was unconscious, and that for a few days, I was definitely in a much better spiritual place that made me aware of a lot of things that concern my life and my future. I have to reach another higher ground.” In 1973, Stevie Wonder released a hit single titled Higher Ground.
Length of Coma: 5 Days
Jerry Garcia was an American musician known for his guitar work, singing and songwriting with the Grateful Dead. Garcia performed with the Grateful Dead for their entire three-decade career. He is one of the greatest guitarists in history and was known for his “soulful extended guitar improvisations.” Jerry toured exclusively with the Grateful Dead from 1965 until his death in 1995, which included 2,314 shows. He also founded and participated in a variety of side projects. Garcia contributed to a number of albums and was an influential presence in a wide variety of musical genres.
In 1986, Jerry Garcia collapsed and entered into a diabetic coma, which resulted from an infection in an abscessed tooth. He almost died during the event and stayed in the coma for five days. The coma was precipitated by Garcia’s unhealthy weight, bad eating habits, and recent drug use. In the 1980s, Jerry was heavily addicted to heroin, cocaine, and a collection of other drugs. He kicked the habit after a stint in drug rehab, but his health was complicated by diabetes. Rumors persist that Garcia’s hair turned from black to grey while he was in the coma.
Jerry Garcia’s coma had a profound effect on his life. It forced him to have to relearn how to play the guitar, as well as other, more basic skills. Within a handful of months, Garcia quickly recovered and rejuvenated his musical career. He said that the coma inspired him to improve his health and return to the stage. For this reason, Jerry Garcia’s energy peaked in the late 1980s before his untimely death in 1995 at the age of 53.
Coma Experience: During his lifetime, Jerry Garcia spoke about his coma. He said it was surreal: “Well, I had some very weird experiences. My main experience was one of furious activity and tremendous struggle in a sort of futuristic, space-ship vehicle with insectoid presences. After I came out of my coma, I had this image of myself as these little hunks of protoplasm that were stuck together kind of like stamps with perforations between them that you could snap off.”
Length of Coma: 8 Days
Ozzy Osbourne is an English heavy metal vocalist and songwriter. In the 1970s, Ozzy rose to prominence as the lead singer of the pioneering English band Black Sabbath, whose dark and hard sound helped spawn the heavy metal genre. Osbourne has achieved multi-platinum status and sold over 100 million albums in his musical career.
Ozzy Osbourne has abused drugs and alcohol for most of his life, but his physical condition is not caused by drug abuse. In 2005, Ozzy Osbourne was diagnosed with Parkin Syndrome, which is a genetic condition very similar to Parkinson’s disease. Ozzy has to take daily medication to combat the involuntary shudders associated with the condition.
On December 8, 2004, Ozzy Osbourne was involved in an all-terrain-vehicle accident on his English country estate. After the crash, it was reported that Osbourne “died twice” and was left in a coma for eight days. The accident happened when he hit a pothole and was catapulted over the handlebars of the vehicle. Ozzy tumbled down a hill and the bike landed on top of him, crushing his chest.
Osbourne’s bodyguard rushed to the scene and gave Ozzy mouth to mouth resuscitation when he stopped breathing. “If it wasn’t for Sam I probably wouldn’t be here. He had to bring me back to life twice.” Ozzy, who was 55-years-old at the time, fractured eight ribs and a vertebra in the accident. Osbourne felt extremely lucky to be alive after the crash. Sharon Osbourne told the newspapers that she would have taken her own life had her husband died. “If Ozzy had gone, I would have gone with him.”
Coma Experience: Ozzy Osbourne described the confusion he felt as he gradually recovered from a coma. “I didn’t know where I was or how long I’d been there. I would often drift in and out of consciousness. Other times there would be a white light shining through the darkness, but no angels, no one blowing trumpets, and no man in a white beard.” Ozzy said that the accident made him “grow up.” “You are bopping along through life and have your ups and downs, but it is amazing how two or three seconds can totally change your life.”
Length of Coma: 9 Days
Sharon Stone is an American actress and former fashion model. In 1992, Stone achieved international recognition for her role in the erotic thriller Basic Instinct. Following Basic Instinct, Stone was listed by People magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. In 1995, Sharon received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress (Casino). Some of her other famous roles include major parts in the films Total Recall, The Quick and the Dead, Sliver, Intersection, Sphere, and Cold Creek Manor.
On September 29, 2001, Sharon Stone was hospitalized after experiencing a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which was diagnosed as a vertebral artery dissection rather than the more common ruptured aneurysm. She was listed in critical condition and experienced a nine-day coma as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. After the problem was discovered, Stone underwent a seven-hour procedure and surgeons stabilized the torn artery with 22 platinum coils and stopped the bleeding.
“By the time I was admitted to the hospital, I had bled into my spinal column. My brain was pushed forward into my face and I lost 18 percent of my body mass.” In 2021, Stone spoke out about her life, including the brain hemorrhage, miscarriages, and adoption.
Coma Experience: Sharon Stone told Katie Couric that she had a “white light experience” during her brain scare. “When the event hit me I felt like I’d been shot in the head. That’s the only way I can really describe it. It hit me so hard it knocked me over on the sofa. I had a real journey that took me places both here and beyond that affected me so profoundly that my life will never be the same. I am not afraid of dying and I get to tell other people that it’s a glorious and beautiful thing. A giant vortex of white light was upon me. It took off into this glorious, bright white light and I started to see some of my friends. It was a very fast experience and I was suddenly back in my body and the room.”
Length of Coma: 29 Days
Evel Knievel was an American daredevil, entertainer, and motorcycle enthusiast. During his career, Knievel performed over 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps between the years 1965 and 1980. In 1974, at the height of his career, Evel attempted to launch himself across the Snake River Canyon in a Skycycle X-2 steam-powered rocket (essentially an unguided missile). After the launch, the parachute on the rocket deployed, which slowed the vehicle. The missile reached the opposite side of the canyon, but the wind blew it back. The rocket floated to the ground and crashed just a few feet away from the river’s edge. Knievel suffered only minor injuries, but if the rocket had landed inside the Snake River, he would have drowned.
Evel Knievel holds the record as the person who has survived the “most bones broken in a lifetime” with 433 broken bones. In 1966, Evel Knievel set up his first daredevil show. The following year he came to national attention when Evel persuaded the owners of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to let him jump their fountain on New Year’s Eve. During the jump, Knievel experienced an unexpected deceleration in his motorcycle and crashed short of the safety ramp. He flew over the handlebars and skidded to rest in the Dunes parking lot. As a result of the crash, Evel suffered a crushed pelvis and femur. He broke his hip, wrist, both ankles, and experienced head trauma that kept him in a coma for 29 days. After Evel woke up from the coma, doctors told him that he might never walk again, but Evel made almost a full recovery from the crash.
Coma Experience: After Evel Knievel was asked what it was like to be in a coma. He replied: “How the fuck do I know, I was in a coma.”
Length of Coma: 33 Days
Gary Busey is an American film and stage actor. He has appeared in a large number of films since making his debut in Angels Hard as They Come (1971). In 1978, Busey received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story. In the film, all the actors did their own singing and played their own instruments. Busey lost 32 pounds in order to get the part. He has appeared in over 150 films and television shows during his career. Some of his most popular roles are in the movies Silver Bullet, Lethal Weapon, Predator 2, Point Break, Under Siege, and Black Sheep.
On December 4, 1988, Gary Busey was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. He was not wearing a helmet during the crash and fractured his skull. Due to intense swelling and bleeding, doctors initially feared that Gary would suffer from permanent brain damage, but he miraculously emerged from a coma after 33 days. During the crash, Busey slid on a patch of gravel at 40 mph, flipped over the handlebars of his motorcycle, and hit his head on the curb. After a period of recuperation and rehabilitation, Busey returned to his film career and has been working as an advocate for traumatic injury prevention ever since.
Busey is a strong supporter of helmets. “I want people to understand that life is very important and that if you’re riding a motorcycle, skateboard, or bicycle without a helmet, you’re challenging the face of death.”
In the past ten years, Gary Busey has earned the public reputation for erratic and bizarre behavior. He has experienced a series of arrests and been featured on some of America’s most trashy reality TV programs. At the recommendation of Dr. Drew Pinsky, Busey was seen by psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy. Sophy suspected that Busey’s brain injury might have had a greater effect on him than initially realized. He described it as essentially weakening his mental “filters” and causing him to speak and act impulsively.
Coma Experience: Gary Busey said that during his coma he experienced a vision of the afterlife that changed his life forever. “I remember being aware of only two things during that ordeal. The first was that I entered and returned from a spiritual realm, and that the experience has been the foundation of my faith ever since. The second, and equally important experience, was the healing love and support of the people who surrounded me.” During his surgery, Busey said he was surrounded by angels. “They didn’t appear in the form that people see on Christmas cards. The angels were big balls of light that floated and carried nothing but love and warmth.”
Kurt Cobain was an American singer-songwriter, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana. In the 1990s, Nirvana was labeled “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain hailed as “the spokesman of a generation.” Cobain was uncomfortable and frustrated with his representation in the media. During the last years of his life, he struggled with heroin addiction, illness, and depression.
On March 1, 1994, Kurt Cobain was diagnosed with bronchitis and severe laryngitis following a tour stop in Munich, Germany. He flew to Rome the next day for medical treatment, and was joined by his wife, Courtney Love. On March 3, 1994, Love awoke to find that Cobain had overdosed on a combination of champagne and Rohypnol. Kurt was immediately rushed to the hospital, and spent the rest of the day in a coma. After five days in the hospital, Cobain was released and returned to Seattle.
The strange thing about the life about Kurt Cobain is that some reports paint his personality as a suicidal rocker, while others a family man. Upon his arrival in Rome, newspapers described Kurt as being “in great spirits. He was happy to be going to Rome. He feels comfortable there and was looking forward to having some time off from the tour with his family.” On April 8, 1994, Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered at his Lake Washington home by an electrician who arrived to install a security system. He was 27-years-old.
Coma Experience: “Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem. They’re no good at all.” Kurt Cobain.
Architecture has existed since the recognition of civilization. Like fashion, the architecture of today wouldn’t be what it is if we didn’t get inspiration from the architectural past. Stone Age influenced the Egyptian, Egypt influenced the Greeks, Greeks influenced the Romans, and Romans influenced the timeless elements of today’s architecture. Below is a list of architectural periods that are the foundations of our present-day structures. Enjoy!
Also known as The New Stone Age, dated beginning about 9500 BC in the Middle East, it was a period of the progress of the human technology. Pottery was first introduced in this age, as well as the development of tools for hunting, building and cooking. The neolithic peoples in the Levant, Anatolia, Syria, northern Mesopotamia and Central Asia were great builders, utilizing mud-brick to construct houses and villages. Houses were plastered and painted with elaborate scenes of humans and animals. The Mediterranean neolithic cultures of Malta worshiped in megalithic temples. In Europe, long houses built from wattle and daub were constructed. Elaborate tombs for the dead were also built. These tombs are particularly numerous in Ireland, where there are many thousand still in existence. Neolithic people in the British Isles built long barrows and chamber tombs for their dead and causewayed camps, henges flint mines and cursus monuments. This period shows the start of human civilizations, spiritual beliefs, and the human ambition to make life easier.
This period covers the Ancient Civilizations of Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and The Byzantine Empire around the time from 3000 B.C. up to 300 B.C. The ancient Mediterranean civilization, from ancient times to the beginning of the Middle Ages, is a result of significant historical events, and it is one of the most notable empires which gave a progressive influence to the growth of human cultures. The mild and healthful climate, and the inheritance of important civilizations of Mesopotamia, India and China, the facile communication by maritime routes, as well as the invention of writing, supporting columns, doors, windows, arches, sculpture, painting, engineering, the alphabet, agriculture, metal works, and logistics was born in this era. The Ancient Mediterranean civilization was a result of the continuous process of advancement, enhanced by the inheritance from previous civilizations, by easy maritime communication, and by the exchange of ideas through migration and colonization.
Dating from around 600 A.D. to around the late 1700s, Islamic architecture comprises a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day, influencing the design and construction of buildings and structures in Islamic culture. It composes the Influences of Moorish, Abbasid Caliphate, Fatimid, Mamluk, Persian, Azerbaijani, Turkistan, Ottoman, Indo-Islamic, Sino-Islamic, Indonesian-Malay, Sahelian-Islamic, and the Somali-Islamic architectures. The principal Islamic architectural types are: the Mosque, the Tomb, the Palace and the Fort. From these four types, the vocabulary of Islamic architecture is derived and used for buildings of lesser importance such as public baths, fountains and domestic architecture.
For those of you who don’t know, Egypt is part of Africa. Egypt could be considered as the most progressed region in Africa. The Pyramids of Giza is considered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is noted as one of the architectural achievements of its time. The rise of large structures like Building and Temple complexes were derived from Egyptian architectural backgrounds. Ancient architecture south and west of the Sahara is not well documented compared to their Egyptian neighbors so little is known of their architectural styles. The architecture of Africa is remarkably diverse because each of these African ethno-linguistic tribes has had their own architectural traditions throughout history. These entire region share a common theme that defines traditional African architecture: The use of fractal scaling: small parts of the structure tend to look similar to larger parts, such as a circular village made of circular houses. African architecture uses a wide range of materials, such as thatch, stick/wood, mud, mud brick, rammed earth, and stone, and other more perishable material.
Also includes Persian architecture, this age comprises of all four corners of Asia. It encompasses a wide variety of geographically and historically spread structures, each to their own details and religious deities. The diversity of each nation’s culture is represented in its architecture. It is a blend of ancient and varied native traditions, with building types, forms and technologies from West and Central Asia, as well as a few in Europe. Presently, Asian interior design is a popular trend used in homes. The use of artworks, furniture, Zen, Balinese, etc. are Asian inspired.
Comprises the Mesoamerican, Incan, Olmec,Maya, Aztec and Ancient North America influences in architecture, the pre-Columbian era is a period in history of the Americas before the arrival of the European colonizers in the 16th century. Traditions are best known in the form of public, ceremonial and urban monumental buildings and structures, the development of an extensive road system spanning most of the western length of the continent, the construction of the world’s first suspension bridges (Rope Bridges), peoples were excellent stone cutters whose masonry used no mortar, textiles, and the building of platforms were their most renowned achievements. Pre-Columbian architecture is mostly noted for its pyramids which are the largest such structures outside of Ancient Egypt, and also The Macchu Picchu.
Also known as ‘The Middle Ages,’ it is a term used to represent various forms of architecture common in Medieval Europe. The basic characteristics of this style of architecture were influenced by religion (latin cross style churches), military (castle and fortified walls) and civil (Manors) impacts. Pre-Romanesque, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance Era divides this period. This was a time of war (Pre-Romanesque), Expansion (Romanesque), plague (Gothic) and rebirth (Renaissance). These are characterized by a use of round or slightly pointed arches, cruciform piers supporting vaults, featuring almost skeletal stone structures with great expanses of glass, windows containing beautiful stained glass, depicting biblical stories, rosette windows, pared-down wall surfaces supported by external flying buttresses, pointed arches using the ogive shape, ribbed stone vaults, clustered columns, pinnacles, sharply pointed spires, and don’t forget the gargoyles.
This is the time when men wanted to colonize other land masses, think of Pocahontas, Magellan, Columbus, Lewis and Clark. This is the Colonial Period. Architecture was primarily made from things they found wherever they are in search of the frontier. With the rise of various European colonial empires from the 16th century onward through the early 20th century, the new stylistic trends of Europe were exported to or adopted by locations around the world, often evolving into new regional variations. This period is divided into the Baroque (elaborate and over-designed), Classicism (symmetry and proportion), Revivalism (revival of an architectural era), Orientalism (Imitation of Eastern Cultures), and Art Nouveau (organic forms and structures).
Expressionist, Art Deco, International Style… this is the Early Modern Era. Think of old Hollywood, Silver Screen at its peak. Early Modern architecture began with a number of building styles with similar characteristics, primarily the simplification of form and the elimination of ornament, which first arose around 1900. By the 1940s these styles had largely consolidated and been identified as the International Style. The exact characteristics and origins of modern architecture are still open to interpretation and debate. An important trigger appears to have been the maxim credited to Louis Sullivan: “form follows function.” Functionalism, in architecture, is the principle that architects should design a building based on the purpose of that building. This statement is less self-evident than it first appears, and is a matter of confusion and controversy within the profession, particularly in regard to modern architecture.
Could be subcategorized into the general term of modern architecture but this period is slowly standing on its own. This was the time that man finally set foot on the moon, which inspired the idea of futurism to architecture as well. It composes the Regionalism (sense of placelessness), Postmodern Architecture (diverse and innovative aesthetics), Deconstructive Architecture (fragmentation and controlled chaos). The newest addition to this period is Green Architecture, also known as Sustainable Architecture, is a general term that describes environmentally conscious design techniques in the field of architecture. Most simply, the idea of sustainability, or ecological design, is to ensure that our actions and decisions today do not inhibit the opportunities of future generations.
There are many lists throughout the web about books you should read before you die. I find that peculiar. What good is reading a piece literature that can give you a whole new perspective on life “before” you die? Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to have a list of titles you should read before you start truly “living?”
Young adults have a lot time on their hands. Sprinkling that time with books that will make them better prepared for life’s peaks and valleys can’t hurt. Especially at a stage in life when they can absorb it without the distractions of adulthood. The titles my teen gravitates to are wonderful if she plans to settle down with a handsome vampire or start her own crusade against evil wizards.
High School isn’t helping either. The reading lists she brings home hasn’t changed much in 30 years. “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “All ‘BORING’ on the Western Front”, “Lord of the Flies” all great books, but basically one-dimensional. Racism…Bad, War…Bad, Civilization…Good, o.k… we get it! How about titles that inspire, teach and help you learn from others mistakes. Because growing up is tough, but being a grown-up is tougher without a clue to what lies ahead.
Here’s a list of books that I’m encouraging my own teen to read before running off to college. I know if I had, I would have been better prepared for this big, bad and beautiful world.
Please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments.
Harriett’s psychologically incestuous affection for her parents ultimately leads to misery, for herself, and those around her. No reader can walk away from this book without realizing the importance of leaving the nest and establishing you own identity. The lesson for teens is that to be an individual you must rebel against your parents at some stage in your development. If not, perpetual adolescence in adulthood will sabotage any chance happiness and self-respect. So erase the possibility of running home to mum & dad’s sofa when life gets tough.
Don’t blindly trust your leaders!
Any government or political movement (not just Commies), no matter how well intentioned, can be transformed from a force of good to one of oppression if its citizens yield to State sponsored violence and propaganda. Political leaders, like all of us, are fallible. And if left unchallenged, can destroy a nation from within. Animal Farm poignantly demonstrates this reality. It stand as a lesson to all young readers that liberty and equality must be vigilantly guarded on a daily basis.
This book has been out-of-print for a long time. But if you can find it…get it. It’s a wonderful introduction to the basic elements that make up our world. Ever wonder how to make Carbon Dioxide? or collect Hydrogen in a test tube? make your own soap? The Golden Book of Chemistry will show you how. This book serves two purposes for the young adult. It can spark a love of life long scientific pursuit or confirm, once and for all, that the sciences are not for you. Either way, the Golden Book is a keeper.
If you can put aside Mr. Sowell’s political affiliations long enough to read this book you will discover that Economic issues are not that difficult to comprehend. No matter what point on the political spectrum you put yourself in, the rules of economics are neutral. And knowledge of basic economic principles are essential to understand how our modern world functions. Concepts ranging from economies of scale to the price of a paper clip are explained in a readable and compelling style. But most importantly, the esoteric jargon used by media pundits and politicians to describe economic issues will no longer be a mystery.
Whether you love or hate the French, there’s just “something” about them that magnetically draws us into their culture. This book is a collection of memories from the authors’ time in Paris as a magazine correspondent in the 1950’s. He touches on many unique aspects of French culture and history to bring his account to life. Having lived there myself for a couple of years, it’s amazing how much the French haven’t changed in 50 years, but I digress. The book benefits a young reader by describing a culture similar to our own but fundamentally different in many strange and wonderful ways. So, get out and explore the World.
Bel Ami is a classic (and copyright FREE) novel about a former soldier turned Parisian journalist in the late 19th century. Georges Duroy is a shameless scoundrel who will use any means at his disposal to get ahead. Although scandalous at the time of publication, Georges’ tactics are tame by today’s standards and quite entertaining. Young readers need to know that throughout their adult lives they will come across their own “Georges Duroy’s” and will be better prepared to overcome the charm of these parasites.
Talbot’s investigation into the possible nature of reality is, at the very least, thought-provoking and at best mind-blowing. The first chapters in the book deal with how the Holographic Model could explain the nature of reality and how our brains interpret the universe around us. Both skeptics and mystics will walk away with something valuable from this book. The benefit to young adults is to provide an alternate view about the true nature of our World. A view in which answers may lie beyond what religious dogma, and “this-is-all-there-is” science can reveal. It’s not the easiest read in the list, but its definitely one you’ll keep on your bookshelf for a long time.
Ultimately, the goal of life is to find your own patch of land and tend to it…or something like that.
If God could not possibly create anything but a perfect world then mankind’s brutality against itself must be part of His “perfect” design. Candide and his companions endure a series brutal hardships mirroring real-world 18th century events and narrowly escaping them. Voltaire’s hyper-detailed narrative of these horrible events actually make them humorously fun to read. Just imagine someone today writing a tale incorporating 9/11, The War on Terror, the AIDS epidemic, The Rwandan Genocide, The Japanese Tsunami and somehow make it relevant and funny. That’s Candide.
The Alchemist tells the tale of a young shepherd in Andalusia whose quest to find the meaning of a dream leads him on an adventure through many struggles and ultimately to his own fulfillment Fortune, poverty, love, war, bravery, fear, and heaping spoonfuls of mysticism fill the pages of this uncomplicated story. The Universe wants you to “succeed” and will present you with clues to help you reach your goals. Those clues, however, don’t always follow a straight line. The twists, turns and delays encountered on your path are an important part of the journey to who you really are and where you truly belong. So, trust yourself.
Saints and philosophers alike have debated over the centuries about what makes us human. Why are we hairless apes different from the rest of the animal kingdom? The answer is simple. Humans COOK their food and animals DON’T. Therefore it is necessary for all participants in the human race to have a basic knowledge of cooking beyond simply boiling water. Mastering four or five sauce recipes from this book is sufficient to make you a proficient human being. After all, a salad without vinaigrette is just rabbit food.
The day is beautiful and the sun is shining. You decide to go on a short hike to more fully enjoy this warm day. You know a great spot that many people don’t know about. You pack lightly as you don’t plan to be out for too long. A few bottles of water, snacks, cell phone, and MP3 player is with you as you arrive at your desolate location.
Time passes by quickly as you are enjoying your time and it is almost dark. You decide it’s time to leave but on the way, you trip and fall down a 50 foot cliff, resulting in a broken leg and immobility.
You try to call for help with your cell phone but it is not getting a signal. Your water and food is almost out and you won’t survive long out here. What do you do? How badly do you want to live?
“The toughest moment was after a few days, when I realized that I was completely alone.”
Yossi Ghinsberg and three other men went to the Amazon jungle. They ventured out to find a hidden tribe. The environment was harsh and tensions built up between the group. The group eventually broke up. Ghinsberg remained with Kevin, while the other two, Marcus and Karl, stuck together. Ghinsberg and Kevin took a raft but lost control of it as it came towards a mighty waterfall. Kevin made it to shore but Ghinsberg floated downstream and over the waterfall, narrowly escaping a watery death.
The following 19 days were full of challenges for Ghinsberg. He survived a late night encounter with a jaguar by setting fire to an insect repellent spray – spewing fire like a flamethrower. Swarms of termites feasted on patches of his skin and clothes when he urinated on himself out of exhaustion. He ate fruit and raw eggs from chicken nests in the jungle. He almost drowned by a flood and almost sank in a bog.
He was finally found by Kevin, who had formed a search party with the locals. Marcus and Karl were never found.
“At sea I am reminded of my insignificance – of all men’s insignificance. It is a wonderful feeling to be so humbled.”
Steven Callahan sailed out from the Canary Islands on a small slope he built himself. Six days later on his trip, the boat sank due to damage from a collision with an unknown object at night. He later said that he suspected the object was a whale. He escaped from the boat and onto a life raft that measured about six feet across.
He managed to survive until his rescue, 76 days later. He was faced with sharks, sunburn, raft punctures, physical deterioration and mental agony. For food, he speared fish and captured birds and barnacles. He lost a third of his weight during this time. When his raft formed a leak, he managed to keep it afloat for 33 days until his rescue.
“I just had to keep my eyes open and ignore the pain.”
In June 1992, Colby Coombs and two of his friends were climbing Alaska’s 17,240-foot Mt. Foraker. An avalanche happened and the three were caught inside. Coombs and his friends were forced down 800 feet on the side of the mountain and they crashed into a river of snow. Coombs’ friends did not survive the ordeal.
Coombs suffered a concussion, a fractured ankle, two fractured vertebrae in his neck, and a broken shoulder blade. The next six days were difficult. He descended from his location followed by a five mile walk across a glacier until he finally reached a camp. He continues to climb today.
“I remember falling back into the snow, looking at my feet and going, ‘You’re going to lose your feet.’”
Eric Le Marque, a member of France’s Olympic hockey team, was lost for seven days in the Sierra Nevada wilderness. Being an avid snowboarder, he was boarding at California’s Mammoth Mountain until a blizzard threw him off course. He failed to find his way back before dark. He spent the night in the woods and attempted to hike back the next day. However, he ended up venturing deeper into the woods.
He had few supplies with him, having only a MP3 player, his snowboard, and his clothes. For food he had pine nuts and bark. For water he drank melted snow and river water. He used his snowboard to dig igloos. He became hypothermic and his frostbitten feet were black and purple. After falling into rushing water, he almost fell down an 80-foot waterfall. Amazingly, Le Marque used his MP3 player to find a radio signal which he used like a compass. Due to the tissue damage to his lower body, most parts of his legs had to be amputated.
“When the wind’s howling that hard, it’s picking up spray right off the top of the water. There’s so much spray, you can hardly see anything. It’s like being in a blizzard.”
In 1983, Tami Oldham Ashcraft and her boyfriend, Richard Sharp, were on a 44-foot sailboat. They were en route to San Diego from Tahiti when disaster struck. They were battered by a category four hurricane. Waves were as high as 50 feet and winds were fierce, blowing at more than 160 miles per hour. The boat was capsized and Ashcraft was knocked out below deck. She regained consciousness 27 hours later and discovered Sharp was missing.
Alone at sea and mourning her boyfriend, things seemed hopeless. However, Ashcraft fought to survive. She used celestial navigation to plot a way to Hawaii which was 1,500 miles away. She rationed food and cobbled together a mast and sail. She finally reached Hilo Harbor 41 days later.
“If you have to [drink urine], I suggest you let it cool down first. It doesn’t taste very nice.”
Ricky Megee stopped to help a couple whose car had broken down. Next, he was waking up with rocks and dirt covering him. The pit was meant to be his final resting place. He claimed to have been drugged and robbed by the couple. Megee suffered from exposure and malnutrition for the next two months. His diet consisted of leeches, lizards, insects, frogs, and snakes. He was forced to drink his urine when he couldn’t find rain puddles to drink from. He weighed 230 pounds before he got lost and weighed 105 pounds at his rescue. The man who found and rescued him described him as a walking skeleton.
“Judging by my degradation in the last 24 hours, I’ll be surprised if I make it to Tuesday.”
Could you amputate your arm with a dull knife to survive? Aron Ralston could, and did. On May 1, 2003, an 800 pound boulder fell onto his arm and trapped him in a Utah canyon wall.
After being stuck in the same spot for five days with food and water supplies almost gone, Ralston took desperate steps to ensure his survival. He used the boulder to snap his bones. He then used his two inch dull pocket knife to agonizingly cut the tendons and muscles of his trapped arm. The cutting process took about an hour. He was finally free from the boulder. He rappelled down a 65-foot wall one handed and walked in the hot midday sun back to his car. On the way he was found by a family and given water while rescuers were on the way.
A film was made about this story called “127 Hours” and I recommend you see it.
“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of; the heck with sugar and spice.”
On a morning in November 2003, Bethany Hamilton went to Makau Beach in Hawaii to surf. At the time she was a 13 year old competitive surfer. She was lying on her surf board with her arms dangling in the water when a 12-15 foot tiger shark attacked her. Hamilton’s left arm was ripped off just below the shoulder.
Instead of panicking and possibly drowning, Hamilton paddled over to her friends using her intact arm. She even made sure to warn others in the water, shouting that there was a shark. Her friends helped her paddle to shore and she was taken to the hospital. Despite this event, Hamilton was surfing again the next month.
“I think my head was so far down his throat that I touched his taste buds.”
45 year old James Morrow has been where few want to be: inside the jaws of a hungry alligator. Morrow was snorkeling in Florida’s Juniper Run. He was adjusting his snorkel when an alligator seized him by the throat and violently shook him for 10-20 seconds before releasing him. He was eventually helped onto a boat by his friends.
The force of the alligator’s jaws punctured his chest and collapsed one of his lungs. Dents are still visible on his head and bite marks are still visible on his neck. All he was able to do during the attack was to punch the alligator on the throat. The snorkeling mask still on his face saved him from obtaining any more serious damage, such as a punctured eye.
“I thought I was going to die. I thought I was going to be gone.”
Working as a hunting guide, Kootoo Shaw was helping a group of hunters from Wisconsin. They were three days into a hunt. While Shaw was sleeping in a tent, a polar bear targeted him at about four o’clock in the morning.
“He had his claws under my neck for a while, I could hear his breathing, then he let his claws off and he was still jumping on top of me, up and down four times,” he recalled. Another hunter shot and killed the bear. Shaw suffered horrific injuries. He suffered numerous slashes and bites. He required nearly 300 stitches to reattach his scalp.
Ensuring a high level of reading literacy has become a priority of many governments around the world. However, what is often forgotten is that there is more than one type of illiteracy, and not all are addressed during formal education. Many of these can be just as debilitating as an inability to read, but go unnoticed because the wider community is unaware of their existence. A few, such as scientific and functional illiteracy, have even resulted in death for some unfortunate people. These are a global problem because adults generally express some degree of at least one. Work out how many you might have.
This is the ability to understand information regarding agriculture. For those who work as farmers, this is rarely a problem, but to a city-dweller, reading that “90% of farmland was lost due to drought” might not seem a serious problem due to an utter lack of understanding of how farming works. People who are agriculturally illiterate fail to understand how important agriculture is, how dependent we all are on it, and make statements like “lack of farmland never causes famines, it’s just farmers being unreasonable and complaining” or “if they can grow this food overseas, then we can grow it here just as easily.”
Computer illiteracy is a specific form of technological illiteracy. It is the lack of ability to use computers at a basic level, often despite being shown how to use them. Being unable to turn a computer on, thinking that a mouse needs to be fed, or trying to click by snapping one’s fingers are real examples of computer illiteracy. People who are computer illiterate, an increasingly disabling trait in modern society, say things like “I’ll ring you on your email number” and “I deleted the internet. How do I fix it?”
This form of illiteracy is where someone is able read text and to understand its overall meaning, but lacks the ability to think about it critically and consider the possibility of unreliable or biased information. Gullible people often have critical illiteracy. The statement “all people who were democratic in the nineteenth century are now dead, so democracy kills people!” is taken as fact, and the underlying political agenda or the actuality that the data does not support said agenda is missed. Critical illiteracy is taken advantage of by many forms of media to present opinions as fact.
Everyone belongs to a culture of some sort. Cultural illiteracy is a lack of familiarity with one’s culture. This often becomes apparent when common sayings are misunderstood, or when references to folklore are completely missed. Although we are all culturally illiterate to many other cultures, those who are illiterate of their own culture lack a feeling of comfort when surrounded by what should be familiar memes. A British person thinking that “porky-pies” require pastry, an Australian thinking that “bogans” are from Bougainville, or a Chinese thinking that “Buddha jumps over the wall” actually involves Buddha are strong examples.
No matter how far we try to remove ourselves from the natural world, we are still dependent on the Earth’s resources. Ensuring that environments are maintained in turn helps us maintain our own way of living. Ecological illiteracy is the inability to understand this, and the belief that we are not actually dependent on the Earth. People who feel this way are quick to damage the environment for pleasure, and make statements like “the Earth can support as many humans as we want; population control is unnecessary” and “recycling is a waste of time.”
People who are emotionally illiterate are unable to properly understand the emotions of themselves and of others. They often do not realize when they are behaving erratically due to anger or stress, and thus are less likely to recognize and stop destructive behaviors. They are poor at interpreting the emotions of others and often attribute laughing or crying as deliberate attempts to annoy. These people often have trouble expressing themselves and seem to respond oddly or even inappropriately in some situations. A person who laughs hysterically when they hear a friend has died, despite feeling sad, may be emotionally illiterate.
People who feel overwhelmed when the topic of budgets comes up may suffer from some degree of financial illiteracy. These include people who spend money irresponsibly, such as using a week’s pay to buy a video game when bills are due, or not saving money for future hardships. Frighteningly, many adults when surveyed state that they are financially literate, yet are unable to solve simple finance problems, showing that many suffer from a false sense of security. Although the level varies between countries, between 30% and 50% of adults are financially illiterate, and is a strong predictor of future poverty.
Conservative estimates state that 20% of all adults are functionally illiterate. This means that they can read or hear words and understand their meanings, but cannot properly comprehend the meaning of a sentence as a whole, and are unaware that they lack this perception. At an extreme level, the words in “beware of the dog” are individually understood, but the meaning of required cautiousness is lost. At a more common level, a statement like “genetics is bad” shows that someone lacks a basic understanding of what genetics is yet thinks their knowledge comprehensive enough to make decisive statements.
Health illiteracy is the inability to understand basic healthcare facts, causing an inability to make good health decisions. In developed countries about 10% of adults have health illiteracy. These people are eager to believe audacious health claims, despite a massive amount of evidence to the contrary, and will undergo dramatic and often dangerous lifestyle changes as a result. Unfortunately this often affects their trusting children. Beliefs such as “doctors are paid by corporations to kill patients,” “immunizations do more harm than good,” and “vegan diets are healthy for newborns” have lead and continue to cause poor health and even death.
Information illiteracy is the inability to realize when one’s own knowledge or understanding has reached its limit. The information illiterate is the person who argues despite having been proven wrong, or the person who does not realize they are making a fool of themselves when speaking to a room of experts about a topic they themselves know little about. Information illiterate people are unable to see their own intellectual faults. It has been said that a truly educated person is aware of the limits of their knowledge, and, sadly, over 60% of adults have some degree of information illiteracy.
We rely on a variety of media to provide us with useful information about the wider world. Unfortunately, in order to maximize profits, or to simply stay in business, many media companies sensationalize situations to attract a larger audience. As a result, much of what we hear has been skewed a certain amount. A specific type of critical illiteracy, media illiteracy causes people to interpret everything heard in the media as fact. Statements like “I heard it on TV, it must be true!” and “the news would never lie” are signs of media illiteracy.
Mental health illiteracy is a type of health illiteracy. It is an unawareness or misunderstanding of mental disorders, making problems difficult to recognize or treat. This is the husband who interprets his wife’s talk of suicide as meaningless, or the mother who thinks her son’s eating disorder is merely a phase. Negative and incorrect media portrayals of mental disorders and psychiatric care make this illiteracy common. A widespread but much milder expression of mental health illiteracy is the belief that “shyness isn’t a normal mental state, and if you overcome it you’ll be happier.”
Numerical illiteracy, or a lack of numeracy, is a lack of the basic arithmetic skills that are required in day-to-day life. Simple tasks, like calculating 50% off a price, are very difficult for numerically illiterate people. Although related to statistical illiteracy, numerical illiteracy includes not noticing anything amiss when a merely buying a liter of juice is charged at over one hundred dollars due to a machine error, and may find themselves the victims of extortion without ever realizing it. Although this extreme version of the illiteracy is rare, over half of all adults suffer from mild numerical illiteracy.
Racial illiteracy is the inability to understand issues connected with race and racism. A student claiming that a teacher failed him purposely “because he’s black” may be suffering from racial illiteracy. Similarly, people who hold incorrect or generalizing beliefs about races also suffer from racial illiteracy. The damaging stereotypical views that “all Asians are smart” or “all white people are rich” are both expressions of not only prejudice and ignorance, but of racial illiteracy.
This is what most people think of when they hear the word “illiteracy.” This is the basic inability to understand or produce written information. There are several degrees of illiteracy, such as understanding individual letters but not whole words, understanding some words but not enough to understand a sentence, and not recognizing letters or words at all. Through more widely-available education, world illiteracy has more than halved in the last fifty years. This means that even people living in the poorest countries enjoy better lives as they are able to read medicine instructions or avoid drinking water signposted as “poisonous.”
Science is a carefully built framework of all known truths to humanity. If a scientific hypothesis is disproved, it is either altered or discarded, and thus up-to-date science is never wrong. Science is self-correcting and reflects the culmination of all knowledge at any point in time. Sadly, 75% of adults are scientifically illiterate. These people make statements like “people who drive expensive cars live longer, so if I buy a nice car I’ll live longer too,” even though the car does not cause a long life span but rather both are probably caused by a higher socioeconomic status. Other illiterate statements include “science has proven it to be good for you” and “it’s only a scientific theory, it might not be true.”
People who are statistically illiterate fail to grasp that statistics can be presented in ways to mislead. These people feel that if numbers or data support a particular idea, then it must have merit. Closely linked to critical and numerical illiteracy, a person who is statistically illiterate will interpret the statements “10% of people are allergic to peanuts” and “90% of people are not allergic to peanuts” differently, despite the fact that they say the same thing. Believing that gambling is financially beneficial in the long term is unfortunately common for those with statistical illiteracy.
A person who is technologically illiterate has trouble learning to use new technologies as they become available. Learning new things, especially as an adult, can be slow, but these people find themselves baffled by relatively simple items like binoculars despite being patiently taught to use them hundreds of times. Not understanding a technology because of a lack of contact with it is normal, but not understanding it when exposed to it and when taught several times is illiteracy. These people can experience great trouble in keeping up with modern society.
A trans-illiterate person is unable to transfer information from one form of media to another. For example, they may be able to understand a picture, but have trouble describing it or writing about it. Trans-illiterate people have trouble applying the information they gather from various sources to their daily lives, such as a person who reads that junk food is bad but never thinks to limit their own consumption of junk food. In a society where we are constantly fed information from all kinds of sources, the ability to apply what we know easily and smoothly is becoming increasingly useful.
Visual illiteracy is the inability to understand or process information in visual form. These people struggle to read graphs and info graphics. Specific types of brain damage can cause an innate inability to understand and recognize faces or vision entirely, but most people with visual illiteracy have no such underlying cause. A form of visual illiteracy that all people have at one point but most grow out of is seen in young toddlers. They will tend to think that when a single biscuit is broken in half, the two pieces represent more food than the original biscuit. Similarly, four grapes close together are seen as “more grapes” than the same four grapes spaced far apart. [Full infographic can be found here]
New Zealand is an island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It geographically comprises two main landmasses, the North and South Islands. In 1250-1300, Polynesians settled New Zealand and developed a distinctive Māori culture. Europeans first made contact in 1642. The culture of New Zealand is largely inherited from British and European custom, interwoven with Māori and Polynesian tradition. European and Māori remain the two largest ethnicities, but the large Polynesian population in Auckland has prompted the observation that Auckland is now the largest Polynesian city in the world.
In fact, Auckland is the most remote city in the world with a population in excess of one million. The country of New Zealand is currently the 122 most populated in the world. During its long isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity. It is a marvelous place to visit and holds many unique experiences. This article will examine 15 interesting places and events in New Zealand.
The Kawekaweau is an extinct Giant Gecko unique to New Zealand. It is by far the largest of all geckos with an overall length of at least 600 mm (around 2 ft). The only recorded account of a living Kawekaweau is from 1870, when a Māori chief killed one he found under a dead rata tree in the forests of the Waimana Valley, which are now protected as part of the northern section of Te Urewera National Park.
The lizard is described as being “brownish with reddish stripes and as thick as a man’s wrist.” In 1986, a single stuffed museum specimen of a Kawekaweau was discovered in the basement of the Natural History Museum of Marseille. Nobody is quite sure how the specimen got to France. In 1990, the Kawekaweau was given to the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, which is the national museum and art gallery of the country. “Te Papa Tongarewa” is broadly translated as “the place of treasures of this land.”
Pounamu (greenstone) is several types of hard, durable and highly valued nephrite jade, bowenite, or serpentinite found in New Zealand. Pounamu almost always refers to nephrite jade and is found in specific rivers on the South Island. When searching for the rock, it can be difficult to identify because it hides in large boulders that often need to be cut open. The Māori people have recognized four main types of pounamu. They are kawakawa, kahurangi, īnanga, and tangiwai. Kahurangi pounamu is the rarest variety and is highly translucent in color.
Pounamu plays a very important role in Māori culture and is considered a treasure. It is valued for its beauty, strength, and durability. In 1997, the Crown gave back the ownership of all naturally occurring pounamu to the South Island tribe Ngāi Tahu. Today, greenstone continues to be popular among New Zealanders and is often presented to visitors and people moving overseas.
For centuries, large unidentified sea animals have been reported off the coast of New Zealand. In 1968, a carcass washed ashore at Muriwai, on the west coast of North Island. The body was measured at 30 ft (9.1 m) long and 8 ft (2.4 m) high. After examining the bizarre carcass, the chairman of the Zoology Department at the University of Auckland said: “I can’t think of anything it resembles.” The body was photographed and looks like a big hairy blob. Other than a few sentences, very little information has been written about the case.
In 1977, the Japanese fishing trawler Zuiyō Maru discovered the Zuiyo-maru carcass off the coast of New Zealand, east of Christchurch. The crew was initially convinced that the body was an unidentified animal, but Captain Akira Tanaka decided to dump it back into the ocean. Before it was lost, a collection of photos, sketches, and samples were taken of the creature. The discovery resulted in a “plesiosaur-craze” in Japan. Analysis of the tissue indicated that the creature was most likely the carcass of a basking shark. However, the carcass holds some bizarre characteristics. It had a long neck, four large, reddish fins, a long tail, and lacked a dorsal fin.
William Trubridge is a record setting free-diver from New Zealand. He is the first human to break the 100m barrier in an unassisted dive. In 2021, Trubridge won the World’s Absolute Freediver Award (WAFA) naming him best all around free-diver in the world. On December 16, 2021, Trubridge set a new world record and dove to a depth of 101 m (331.36 ft) on a single breath of air with only his hands and feet for propulsion.
During the dive, William didn’t use any swimming fins, weights, and required no heavy sled. He also didn’t use any inflatable airbag to reach the surface. In total, Trubridge held his breath for 4 minutes, 10 seconds, from start to finish. He made the record breaking dive at Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas, which is the world’s deepest known blue hole with seawater.
On April 10, 2021, on the third day of completion in Vertical Blue, William Trubridge reclaimed his world record in Free Immersion and dove 121 meters in a time of 4:13. Free immersion is a bit different in that the diver can use a rope to help themselves in the decent and ascent. William Trubridge is an Apnea Academy instructor and operates a free-diving school and annual competition (Vertical Blue) at Dean’s Blue Hole. Over the last couple decades, New Zealand has become known for famous divers. Another great free-diver from New Zealand is a man named Dave Mullins.
The deadliest criminal shooting spree in the history of New Zealand occurred on November 13, 1990 in the small seaside township of Aramoana. On the day in question, resident David Gray, a 33-year-old unemployed man, began indiscriminately shooting people with a scoped semi-automatic rifle. In the attack, Gray shot neighbors and members of the town killing thirteen people, including local police Sergeant Stewart Guthrie. After the massacre, Commissioner of Police John Jamieson authorized the Special Tactics Group (STG) to travel to Dunedin and locate Gray. After a long day searching from house to house, the STG found Gray in a house on the north-eastern side of the township.
At around 5.50 pm, David Gray ran out of the house, shooting from the hip and shouting “Kill me!” He took several steps before being shot and knocked down by STG gunfire. He died on the way to the hospital. Police fired between 50 and 60 shots, and at least 150 police officers were involved in the operation. Three days after the incident, Gray’s house at 27 Muri Street in Aramoana was deliberately set on fire and burned to the ground. The shooting directly resulted in an amendment to New Zealand’s firearms regulations, tightening gun control laws in the country.
Barry Smith was a Christian preacher and author from New Zealand. During his lifetime, Smith traveled around the world and spread the word of Jesus. He was also a conspiracy theorist who wrote eight books about the end of times prophecy. Smith was highly concerned with the New World Order, One World Government, and the Mark of the Beast. He wrote that the Mark of the Beast would be achieved by some form of modern technology, such as barcode tattoos, or a chip used to replace money. Many of Barry’s predictions are said to have come true over time.
He predicted the development of the subcutaneous RFID implant, the rise of terrorism, and the Middle East Conflicts. He was a proponent of the 9/11 conspiracy theories, and claimed the attacks were orchestrated by the US federal government. Shortly before his death in 2002 (age 69), Smith forecast an imminent worldwide financial and economic “collapse.” He said the Bible indicated that the trade of the world would be moved from America to Europe. “Under the reign of the Antichrist, the American dollar will give way to the Euro dollar.” He also said that the New Zealand dollar would probably give way to an Asian dollar.
Barry Smith is quoted: “I also discovered that the AIDS virus was created in a laboratory in America, which has been proven by a Jewish fellow called Leonard Horowitz. We even have the cure for AIDS. I’m a friend of the President of Kenya and they are using it there. That’s how wicked and mixed up everything is.” Kenya has experienced a notable decline in HIV prevalence in comparison to other African nations, attributed to behavioral change and increased access to medication. Barry Smith also had some harsh words for Henry Kissinger and thought he was possibly the “Antichrist.”
New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometers (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea. Because of its remoteness, the land is noted for being one of the last areas settled by humans. The isolation has also given rise to a distinct biodiversity. New Zealand has one of the most varied and unique biodiversities on earth.
Birds comprise the most important part of New Zealand’s vertebrate fauna and the islands are known for a large number of endemic species, which means species that are unique to this part of the world. Of the estimated 20,000 fungi species in New Zealand, only about 4,500 are known. New Zealand also has two sub-species of endemic cetaceans, Hector’s Dolphin and its close relative Maui’s Dolphin.
The Kakapo, also called owl parrot, is a species of large, flightless nocturnal parrot unique to New Zealand. It is the world’s only flightless parrot and the heaviest parrot in the world. The Kakapo is also one of the world’s longest-living birds and has a lifespan of over 60 years. Its anatomy typifies the tendency of bird evolution on oceanic islands and follows the concept of Island gigantism. The Kakapo is critically endangered. Like so many island species, the birds lost their ability to fly in the absence of mammalian predators.
When humans settled New Zealand and introduced predators such as cats, dogs, rats, ferrets, and stoats, the Kakapo was almost wiped out. As of February 2021, only 126 living individuals are known, most of which have been given names. In 2009, surviving Kakapos were moved to two predator-free islands, Codfish (Whenua Hou) and Anchor islands, where they are closely monitored. Similar to other parrots, the species has been noted for their intelligence.
Sports are very popular in New Zealand, and despite New Zealand being a very small nation, it has enjoyed great success in many sports, most notably rugby, cricket, sailing, netball, motorsport, climbing, and other extreme sports. New Zealand first participated at the Olympic Games in 1908, and has since sent athletes to every Summer Games. New Zealand athletes have won a total of 86 medals at the Summer Games, but only one at the Winter Games (alpine skier Annelise Coberger, 1992).
Let’s take a look at some of New Zealand’s greatest Olympic champions. In 1912, Malcolm Champion became New Zealand’s first Olympic gold medalist, and the first swimmer to represent New Zealand at an Olympic Games. Yvette Williams was the first woman from New Zealand to win an Olympic gold medal (long jump, 1952). Peter Snell was a world class runner that came to international fame in 1960 when he won the gold medal in Rome and set a new national record for the 800m. In 1964, Snell won two more gold medals. He was voted New Zealand’s “Sports Champion of the 20th Century.”
A man named Ian Ferguson (canoeist) is New Zealand’s most successful Olympian. He competed in K1, K2, and K4 kayak events and won a total of four gold medals. Horseman Mark Todd was voted Rider of the 20th Century by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports. He won gold medals at Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988). Danyon Loader is another famous athlete from New Zealand that won multiple gold medals. In 1996, he set World Records in the short course 200 butterfly and 400 freestyle. Loader was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2003.
Let’s run through a quick list a notable rugby, cricket, and football stars from New Zealand. Famous rugby players include Fred Allen, Don Clarke, Sean Fitzpatrick, Grant Fox, Dave Gallaher, Michael Jones, Ian Kirkpatrick, John Kirwan, Sir Brian Lochore, Jonah Lomu, Sir Colin Meads, Graham Mourie, George Nepia, and Wilson Whineray. Some famous New Zealand cricketers include Stephen Fleming, Martin Crowe, John Richard Reid, Richard Hadlee, Lance Cairns, Chris Cairns, Danny Morrison, and Daniel Vettori.
The current captain for the New Zealand national football team is defender Ryan Nelsen. Arguably the best football player in the history of New Zealand is Wynton Rufer. Rufer was named the Oceania Footballer of the Century. Some other great players include Steve Wooddin, Shane Smeltz, and Ivan Vicelich.
A hot spring is a spring that is produced by the emergence of heated groundwater. There are currently hot springs on all continents and in many countries around the world. Places with an abundance of hot springs include China, Costa Rica, Iceland, Iran, Peru, United States, Taiwan, Japan, and New Zealand. The world’s largest hot spring is located in New Zealand and named Frying Pan Lake. Frying Pan Lake sits in the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley and has a surface area of 3.8 ha (9.3 acres), also reported at 38,000 square meters.
The average depth of the hot spring is 6 meters (19.6 feet), but it reaches the depth of 20 meters (65.6 feet) in places. It is a wonderful place to visit and a marvelous example of volcanic activity. You might wonder what geological event created the massive hot spring. On June 10, 1886 the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley was created by the eruption of Mount Tarawera, on the North Island. The lake is currently fed by numerous acid springs and sits at a temperature between 45 and 55°C (113-131°F).
The 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption also created the Waimangu Geyser, which was located near Rotorua in New Zealand. Rotorua is a famous city on the southern shores of Lake Rotorua. The Waimangu Geyser was the most powerful geyser in the world from 1900 to 1904. It was created after the eruption opened a 14km-long (8.75 miles) fissure down the mountain and through Lake Rotomahana.
The geyser was first seen erupting in 1900 and the explosion of water was observed reaching up to 460 meters (1,500 ft) in height. The geyser attracted worldwide interest in the early 1900s and was a popular tourist destination. On November 1, 1904, the Waimangu Geyser became extinct as the result of a landslide which changed the water table in this area of New Zealand.
Due to the mild maritime climate of New Zealand, the land is covered with lush forest. The country also has giant mountain peaks, which were formed by the tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions. For this reason, many areas of New Zealand are extremely remote and isolated. For centuries, the people of New Zealand have reported some unusual creatures on the islands. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular crypids of New Zealand.
Since the late 1990s, several big cat sightings have been reported in parts of New Zealand, on both the North and South Islands. There have been unverified panther sightings in Mid-Canterbury near Ashburton and in the foothills of the Southern Alps, but no physical evidence has been discovered. The Kumi Lizard is a cryptid reptile, possibly a giant monitor lizard, which allegedly once lived in New Zealand. The Kumi Lizard is said to be 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) long and is similar to the giant extinct Australian lizard, Megalania.
The Moehau is reported to be a large, hairy hominid living in the Coromandel-Moehau ranges of New Zealand’s North Island. The most common explanation for the Hairy Moehau is that it is a gorilla that escaped from a ship in the 1920s. Toangians is the name of another ape-man that has been reported in New Zealand. The Waitoreke is an otter/beaver-like animal said to live on the South Island.
Probably the most intriguing cryptid from New Zealand is the Poukai, which was a monstrous bird that is said to have eaten people. According to Sir George Grey, an early governor of New Zealand, Hokioi (Poukai) were huge black-and-white predators with a red crest and yellow-green tinged wingtips. If the Poukai was related to the Haast’s Eagle, then it is possible that the legends could be true. The Haast’s Eagle was a species of massive eagles that once lived on the South Island of New Zealand.
The species is the largest eagle and true raptors ever known to have existed. The total length of the bird was estimated to have been up to 1.4 m (4 ft 7 in) in females, with a standing height of approximately 90 cm (2 ft 11 in). Haast’s Eagles preyed on large, flightless bird species, including the moa, which was often fifteen times the weight of the eagle at 300 pounds (140 kg). It is estimated that the Haast’s Eagle attacked at speeds up to 80 km/h (50 mph) and could have easily killed an adult human. The birds did not officially become extinct until around 1400.
New Zealand is known for its extreme sports, adventure tourism, and strong mountaineering tradition. Outdoor pursuits such as cycling, fishing, swimming, running, tramping, canoeing, hunting, and surfing are popular. The Catlins Coast comprises an area in the southeastern corner of the South Island of New Zealand. If you enjoy scenic beauty, hiking, and the freedom of isolation, this is the place for you. The Catlins Coast is a rugged area that features a scenic coastal landscape and dense temperate rainforest, both of which hold many endangered species of birds, most notably the rare yellow-eyed penguin.
The coast is exposed to wild weather and large ocean swells, which often attract big-wave surfers. Due to the weather, the Catlins Coast has been home to numerous shipwrecks, which has intrigued divers and treasure hunters. The relatively isolated location of the Catlins Coast is a delight for surfers who can find undiscovered hot spots. The area has been described as a “treasure trove of uncharted wave formations.” Some noted locations are Kaka Point, Nugget Point, Cannibal Bay, Long Point, and Catlins River Mouth.
Be sure to visit the cliffs of Slope Point if you are on the Catlins Coast. There is no road to Slope Point and it must be reached by a 20 minute walk following dilapidated yellow markers. The rugged, scenic coastline of the Catlins features sandy beaches, blowholes, a petrified forest at Curio Bay, and the Cathedral Caves, which visitors can reach at low tide. The caves are only accessible 2 hours either side of low tide and are one of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand.
The Catlins Coast consists of high cliffs, up to 200m (660 ft) in height. For this reason, many of the area’s rivers cascade and form large waterfalls, most notably the iconic Purakaunui Falls on the short Purakaunui River. The falls are isolated by native bush and fall 20m (66 ft) in three tiers. The landscape of the Catlins is featured in many poems by celebrated poet Hone Tuwhare and is like nothing found in other parts of the world.
During World War II, the people of New Zealand felt safe in the fact that they were isolated and a long distance from the war in Europe. However, in the summer of 1940, the German merchant cruiser Orion was ordered to place 228 mines in four separate areas around New Zealand. At this time in history, the RMS Niagara was an ocean liner that maintained a service from Auckland, New Zealand, to Suva and Vancouver, Canada. The vessel was initially launched on August 17, 1912 and given the nickname of “the Titanic of the Pacific,” but after the RMS Titanic sank, it was renamed “Queen of the Pacific.” RMS Niagara was just 55m shorter than Titanic.
On June 19, 1940, the RMS Niagara was hit by a mine near Auckland and sank in 121 meters (397 feet) of water. No lives were lost, but a secret and large consignment of gold and weapons from the Bank of England sank with the ship. Also, the passenger’s valuables were lost. In the early 1940s, a series of recovery attempts were made to locate the gold. In one case, the Claymore successfully recovered more than eight tones of gold. In all, 555 gold bars were found by the Claymore. As of 2021, five gold bars remain in the wreck, estimated to be worth $1.2 million New Zealand dollars. People have attempted to recover the gold, but it remains lost.
New Zealand is officially recognized as an island country, but it sits on a massive submerged continent known as Zealandia. The New Zealand continent is a nearly submerged fragment of land that sank after breaking away from Australia. New Zealand is the largest part of Zealandia above sea level, followed by New Caledonia. The sunken continent is larger than Greenland or India, and almost half the size of Australia. It is unusually slender, stretching from New Caledonia to beyond New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands. Zealandia supports inshore fisheries and contains New Zealand’s largest gas field, near Taranaki.
In 1768, Captain Cook received specific instructions to find the fabled land of Terra Australis Incognita, the great southern continent thought to be hiding somewhere in the South Pacific. History says Cook failed, finding only the finger of New Zealand. However, GNS geologist Hamish Campbell says Cook might have succeeded and found the sunken land of Zealandia. This is a controversial claim because it says that the entire continent of Zealandia and New Zealand was once underwater. To support his theory, Campbell used evidence from the Ruahine Range, which used to be submerged.
The theory would disprove important facts surrounding the creation of New Zealand. It would help answer the question of what happened to the mammals absent from New Zealand’s native fauna. “What we’re saying is that it is possible that New Zealand’s native flora and fauna is derived from ancestral stock less than 25 million years old.” Many people have dismissed the theory for a number of reasons. Some have cited the history of the tuatara, which is a reptile alive in New Zealand, thought to be a rare remnant of the dinosaur age.
In 1977, Air New Zealand decided to offer an Antarctic sightseeing flight from Auckland Airport to Antarctica and then back via Christchurch. The flight gave individuals the opportunity to view unexplored portions of Antarctica. Many people in New Zealand and around the world saw TE-901 as a great opportunity and quickly signed up for the voyage. On November 28, 1979, the fourteenth flight of TE-901 collided with Mount Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board.
The initial investigation into the accident concluded that it was caused by pilot error, but it was later determined that the flight crashed after its coordinates were adjusted and the crew was not informed. Had the pilots been informed of the changes, the crash could have been avoided. The unexpected flight plan adjustment caused the aircraft to be manually re-routed into the path of Mount Erebus. After a long search, both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were discovered. The voice recorder indicated that the crew believed they were flying over McMurdo Sound, well to the west of Mt Erebus, when in reality they were flying directly at the mountain.
A collection of pictures were taken seconds before the collision that show the mountain with clear visibility and well beneath the cloud base. This fact has confused some people, as the pilots of the aircraft should have been well aware that they were in danger. A conspiracy has evolved around the case and some people in New Zealand feel the government has kept important facts secret. After the crash, the phrase “an orchestrated litany of lies” entered New Zealand popular culture. Stories emerged of passengers who won tickets to the ill-fated flight or received them as gifts. The accident remains New Zealand’s deadliest peacetime disaster.
When searching for the most famous person born in New Zealand, Edmund Hillary stands out. In 1919, Hillary was born in Auckland, New Zealand. While in secondary school, he became interested in mountaineering and made his first major climb in 1939, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier. On May 29, 1953, Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest and survived. The feat propelled Hillary to international stardom and he was named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
Following his ascent of Everest, Hillary devoted most of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal. He funded many schools and hospitals in the area. In his career, Hillary scaled ten other peaks in the Himalayas. He also reached the South Pole and was the first to reach the Pole overland since Amundsen in 1911 and Scott in 1912. Despite the danger of climbing enormous mountain peaks, Hillary’s most notorious near-death experiences have come from plane crashes.
Edmund Hillary narrowly missed becoming a victim of the 1960 New York air disaster, having been late for his flight. Between 1977 and 1979, Hillary commentated aboard several Antarctic sightseeing flights operated by Air New Zealand. He was scheduled to commentate on the November 28, 1979 flight that crashed into Mount Erebus, but was instead replaced by his close friend Peter Mulgrew, who died in the accident.
In 1992, Edmund Hillary appeared on the New Zealand $5 note, making him the only New Zealander to be on a banknote during their lifetime. In 2006, Edmund was highly critical of the decision not to try to rescue David Sharp, an Everest climber who died on the mountain, saying that it is unacceptable to leave another climber behind. On January 11, 2008, Edmund Hillary died of heart failure in Auckland City Hospital. He was 88-years-old.
Baldwin Street, in Dunedin, New Zealand, is considered the world’s steepest residential street. It is located in the suburb of North East Valley, 3.5 kilometers (2.2 mi) northeast of Dunedin’s city centre. Baldwin Street runs east from the valley of the Lindsay Creek up the side of Signal Hill towards Opoho. The road has an average slope of slightly more than 1:5 at its maximum. The slope of Baldwin Street rises about 1:2.86 (19° or 35%), which is an elevation change of 1 meter for every 2.86 meters traveled. The street was developed in the middle of the 19th century as part of a wider grid system.
Baldwin Street is the venue for a collection of annual events in New Zealand, including the Baldwin Street Gutbuster, which involves running from the base of the street to the top of the hill and back down. Since 2002, Baldwin Street has been the site for an event which involves rolling over 30,000 Jaffas (little chocolate balls) down the hill. The road has become an area for thrill-seekers and dangerous stunts. In March 2001, a 19-year-old University of Otago student was killed when she attempted to travel down the street inside a wheelie bin. The bin collided with a parked trailer, killing her instantly. On January 2, 2021, Cardrona stuntman Ian Soanes rode down Baldwin Street on a motorcycle on one wheel.
With names like Ra’s al Ghul and Victor Von Doom, many great comic book villains were probably born with their careers set on evil. And, boy, do they have a resume list to show for it. Comic book supervillains have committed all manner of crimes, heinous and despicable, from a crazed clown trying to drive the police commissioner mad by forcing him to watch his paralyzed daughter getting violated, to an intergalactic despot building an army of followers who draw their power from the yellow light of fear, to the overlord of the planet Apokolips who tries to find an equation to destroy free will itself. Yeah, supervillains are a nasty lot… most of the time any way. Just like how The Punisher found his way into the ranks of the superheroes, not every super-adversary is a power hungry megalomaniac. Some are people who are just trying to do what they think is right. Some are just helpless, abused, worn-down people who have nothing better to do. And, some people just had one bad day. These are villains who, once you get to know them, aren’t so villainous after all.
Everyone knows the story of Batman: the boy who watched his parents gunned down by a low-life criminal, and declared his lifelong battle against the forces of crime, to make sure no one ever had to suffer through what he had. Prometheus is an inverted case. The son of two criminal hippies, Prometheus (we never learn his real name), traveled the country with his parents for years until law enforcement agents cornered the three of them, and shot his parents down in front of his eyes. Prometheus’s hair turned white due to the trauma, and declared that he would spend his life battling the forces of justice. While Prometheus doesn’t have the most prolific record in supervillain history (he did come close to defeating the JLA once, and then later appeared in the awful Cry for Justice mini-series), his story serves as a reflection of the “Why?” in super-hero stories. Prometheus views the forces of justice as an oppressor, who reign an iron fist down on people like his parents, who in his eyes, weren’t doing anything wrong. It is very much a case of nature vs. nurture, and perhaps in an alternate reality, Prometheus could have been a great hero.
From the panels of Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic novel on the nature of the superhero itself, Adrian Veidt is a manipulator to put Svengali to shame. Once a member of the Watchmen, Veidt was known as Ozymandias, and was considered to be the smartest man in the world. The novel itself details Veidt’s retirement from ‘costumed-adventuring’ like the other members of the team, along with the revelation that the murders that have been occurring were directed by him. At the end of the book, Veidt nukes New York City, in order to unite the world (in the midst of a cold war) against a false alien menace. While Ozymandias may have more of a superiority complex then a desire to truly do good to the world (it’s a deep novel), he is nonetheless, believing that he is doing the right thing. Veidt desires not power, not wealth, but simply peace, and is willing to cross the line to obtain it. And, while his plan is certainly full of holes for someone who claims to the be world’s smartest man, Veidt is a reflection of what someone with that much power could do in the real world, all in the name of peace & justice. It’s difficult to explain, but read Watchmen and you’ll see that nothing is black and white.
Dr. Curt Connors began as Peter Parker’s friend and fellow scientist, until experimenting with lizard DNA in an attempt to regrow his amputated arm had a horrible side effect. Connors became the Lizard, and repeated an endless pattern of trying to keep his alternate personality under control, losing it, and having Spider-Man develop a temporary cure. There is little room to indict on Connors predicament, as he is very much a victim of his own sensible ambitions. He is Spider-Man’s friend, and has helped him scientifically on numerous occasions, cursed with a violent altar-ego he can’t control. He’s lost his humanity, his career, his family, all over an attempt at regaining something he lost. The Joker once said that all it takes to drive a person insane is one bad day. Curt Connors has been living with the results of that day for his entire continuity.
Don’t let Arnold’s performance as this great villain in Joel Schumacher’s “Batman & Robin” fool you; Mr. Freeze is a tragic villain if there ever was one. He began as a gimmick-based villain during the Silver Age of Comics. It wasn’t until Paul Dini, co-creator of Batman: The Animated Series imagined a new form for the character, that he truly got a chance to shine. In the episode “Heart of Ice” Batman faces Mr. Freeze for the first time, when Freeze launched ice-based attacks on divisions of a Gotham based company. Batman then discovered that Freeze began life as Dr. Victor Fries, a scientist who specialized in cryogenics. Fries’ wife, Nora, had contracted a terminal disease, and Fries, using money he had embezzled from a science experiment the company had hired him for, cryogenically froze her so that he could search for a cure while she waited. After going over-budget, the CEO discovers Fries’ embezzlement and pulls the plug on Nora, leaving her to die from her illness. When Fries tries to stop him, he gets knocked into a bunch of chemicals, which leave him in a state where his body cannot survive out of sub-zero temperatures, hence the freeze suit. “Heart of Ice” went on to win an Emmy and has had its story adapted into mainstream Batman continuity. Now, Mr. Freeze is the tragic villain in Batman’s rogues gallery, always working alone and wanting to spread cold and despair onto all those he encounters, especially the man who ruined his chance for revenge against those who killed his wife: Batman.
Depending on who you’re talking to, Bizarro is either an imperfect clone of Superman, or a reversed version of Superman from another world. The one thing that is consistent is that Bizarro is the 10-year-old with issues in DC’s supervillain lineup. Bizarro’s intelligence is that of someone under ten, with all the powers of Superman, and spends his time either being used by other, smarter super-villains (Lex Luthor, The Joker, etc.) or just getting angry and fighting Superman. But, at heart, Bizarro just wants to be like Superman, albeit in his own, inverted way. He can’t control his powers, he’s too dumb to truly discern right from wrong, and uses his powers as an outlet for anger and frustration that he himself can’t fully understand. It’s almost like Bizarro was constructed as a massive manipulation tool for readers’ sympathies.
Another character brought to us from Batman: The Animated Series, and created by Paul Dini. Dr. Harleen Quinzel was an intern at Arkham Asylum, who attempted to get inside the mind of the Joker so she could write a tell all book on the subject. What emerged was “Silence of the Lambs” if Jodie Foster hadn’t matched Hannibal in intelligence. By trying to get inside Joker’s mind, Joker got into the good doctors, and she ended up falling for him, and becoming his sidekick and girlfriend, Harley Quinn (get it?). She’s been adapted into the comics, where she’s become a fan favorite, and is always involved in some sort of on-again off-again relationship with The Joker. And, as you’d suspect, a psychotic killing clown prime of crime doesn’t make for the best person to have as your significant other. Harley has become someone of an icon for abusive relationships, as Joker is constantly cruel to her, always telling her she “isn’t getting the joke” and pushing her out of windows. Sadly, Harley finds it hard to go back, and just ends up crawling back to Mr. J, convinced of her own worthlessness, and blaming herself for upsetting him. And I thought Bizarro was sad.
This thousand year old arch-nemesis of Captain Marvel (who’s actually a DC creation despite the name), has only recently shown himself to be as sympathetic as this list qualifies him for. Adam hails from ancient Egypt, and draws his powers from the gods of their pantheon. After removing the ruthless dictator of his country from power, Adam took control and ended up failing in the long run, largely due to the deaths of his family members. After launching a World War, Adam takes his status as a corrupted anti-hero, who simply wants to protect what he loves in the world, namely his home and his people, but is driven to villainous means due to his personality and desperation. Black Adam’s story is one of a failed hero, who is eventually replaced by the boy scout Captain Marvel, and his constant anger and need to have things the way he believes they should be. Adam has even sided with heroes from time to time, including nearly sacrificing himself to repel the forces of Darkseid. We can only hope that he doesn’t get corrupted any further.
While Miss Selina Kyle probably has the most sympathetic back story of any character on this list, she’s become so far from villainy and is actually so tame when it comes to her crimes, she ranks higher as an anti-hero than a straightforward villain. Beginning her story as a prostitute in Gotham’s seedy underbelly, Selina learned to survive by being as tough as nails, and as flexible as a cat, going on to don the famous costume when times hit especially hard. She has been a jewel thief for most of her career in crime, and is always on the look out for herself and her surrogate sister Holly Robinson. Selina never asked to be a criminal, she just did what she had to do to survive, and just got used to it over time. She’s also assertive as hell, always looking out for number one, and can side with anyone who can benefit her needs, which is usually Batman. The relationship between herself and Batman has become one of the enduring dualities in comic book history, as Batman rarely battles her in her criminal doings, and the two have even been romantically involved at several points, leading to her discovering Batman’s secret identity. With a troubled past, a hard-times-call-for-such-measures approach to life, and actually managing to get to Bruce Wayne’s soft side, Catwoman is so layered, that she barely even qualifies as a supervillain.
Harvey Dent is Batman’s greatest failure, and a constant reminder of how much someone call fall from grace. Once the bold and crime-fighting district attorney who was on the verge of cleaning up Gotham for good, Dent’s own personal demons arose at just the wrong time. A childhood full of abuse and hardship lead to Dent’s revelation of a split-personality that he could barely control. Again keeping with the Joker’s idea of one bad day, Dent was finally pushed over the edge when a gangster threw acid in his face during a trial, which lead to the left side of his face hideously melted away. The psychological and physical trauma overwhelmed Dent, leading to self-doubt, self-loathing, and the violent altar-ego influencing his other half. Dent eventually became Two-Face, a villain at odds with his own duality, and so tortured that he couldn’t even tell right from wrong, and left all of his decisions to the fair flip of a coin. To this day, Two-Face not only is a victim as much as he is a tortured soul, but he represents Batman’s biggest failure in losing someone as good as Harvey Dent. Many are familiar with this story due to The Dark Knight, which perfectly summed up what Two-Face is: confused, angry, unsatisfied, and tortured. A man who lost control of himself, and thus, surrenders all in his life to chance.
Whether he is Max Eisenhardt, Magnus, or Erik Lehnsherr. Whether he is Sir Ian McKellan or Michael Fassbender. Whether he wears a stupid looking bucket on his head, or bathes himself in purple, Magneto is everything a supervillain needs to be. He is ruthless, incredibly powerful, has done horrible things, and can justify all of it. Magneto is a survivor of the Holocaust, but not without losing his family and his home, and witnessing first hand what truly horrible things human beings can do each other. After discovering his mutant power to control magnetic fields and calling himself Magnus, he clashes with his close friend Charles Xavier over the hypothetical existence of a new race of humanity (which are revealed to be mutants). Xavier believes in peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans, but Magnus’ fear and first hand accounts of the Holocaust drive him to believe in inevitable war between the species. After discovering that Xavier is a mutant, Magnus becomes Magneto, and leaves his friend to found the X-Men. Originally portrayed as a megalomaniac, Magneto has become the Malcolm X to Xavier’s Martin Luther King. Magneto believes in protecting mutant kind from humanity that hates them, and is willing to use whatever means necessary (sound familiar?) to achieve that. Magneto stands as the self-imposed realist to Xavier’s dream, using his vast power to help keep mutant-kind safe from decimation and persecution, a fear he has every reason to believe given his backstory. He has even joined his enemies, the X-Men, to carry on his friend Xavier’s dream after Xavier supposedly died. He’s the Malcolm X of mutants, and given the story of Malcolm X, only close-minded people wouldn’t find either case sympathetic, and even valid.
The Mafia emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in Sicily. The American Mafia arose from offshoots of the Mafia, fueled by waves of Italian immigration during the late nineteenth century. For made members and associates of the Mafia, murder is needed to frighten and dissuade imprisoned members from “ratting” to reduce their prison time. Sometimes murders are committed for revenge or due to simple disagreements. Murder became a profession in the mafia; career hitmen passed the skill on to other made members throughout history. The planning, execution and disposal of the remains are all part of the trade to a skilled contract killer. Despite the expertise involved, most career killers eventually met their own violent end, or spent a large portion of their lives in prison. I have included mafia associates in the list, as well as made members.
Barboza is renowned for being one of the most feared hitmen during the 1960s; he is believed to have killed over 26 people. He earned his nickname during an incident at a nightclub when he bit out part of a man’s cheek after a disagreement. For a while he pursued a career as a boxer, winning 8 out of his 12 fights under the moniker of “The Baron.” Despite several attempts to make a legitimate living he would always return to crime. In 1950 he served a 5 years sentence at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute, during which he assaulted guards and other inmates on numerous occasions. Three years into his sentence he escaped with fellow inmates, though was soon recaptured.
After his release, he became involved with big time gangsters and started his own burglary ring. Around this time he also began his first work as a hitman for the Patriarca Crime Family. Over the years the number of his victims grew, as did his reputation as a contract killer. His preferred murder weapon was a silenced pistol, though it is thought he also experimented with car bombs. Barboza soon became a powerful and respected figure in the criminal underworld; however his rash personality and violent reputation soon made him dangerous enemies. After being imprisoned on murder charges, he learned that his old criminal friends were plotting to assassinate him. He agreed to testify against mob boss Raymond Patriarca, in return for protection by the FBI. After living in the witness protection program for some time, his enemies finally caught up with him. In 1976, he was ambushed outside his home and killed instantly by a shotgun blast.
Joseph Gallo was a notorious mafia enforcer from the Profaci crime family, based in New York. He killed without provocation and was thought to be involved in many contract killings on the orders of boss Joe Profaci. Ironically his nickname had nothing to do with his murderous reputation. Many gangsters labelled him “Crazy” for his habit of reciting lines of dialogue from gangster movies and impersonating fictitious mob characters. His reputation soared in 1957 when he was suspected (though never proven) of being the gunmen in the assassination of powerful mob boss Albert Anastasia.
Gallo later led a gang in an attempt to overthrow the leader of the Profaci family, Joseph Profaci. The attempt was unsuccessful and many of his friends and relatives were systematically murdered by Profaci’s men. To make things worse for Gallo, in 1961 he was convicted of extortion and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Whilst in prison he attempted to murder several fellow inmates by politely inviting them into his cell and then giving them food laced with strychnine. Many inmates became extremely ill though none died. He was paroled after serving 8 years of his sentence.
After his release, Gallo became determined to take over Joe Colombo as the leader of the Colombo crime family. In 1971 an African-American gangster shot Colombo three times in the head on Gallo’s orders. However, Gallo would soon meet his own violent end. In 1972 when he was eating at a seafood restaurant with his family and bodyguard, a lone gunman burst through the rear entrance and shot Gallo five times in the chest. He staggered into the street and collapsed dead. The primary suspect for the killing is thought to have been Carlo Gambino, who allegedly ordered the hit in revenge for the murder of friend Joe Colombo.
Giovanni Brusca is renowned as one of the most ruthless and sadistic members in the history of the Sicilian Mafia. He claims to have murdered over 200 men, though this figure seems unlikely and authorities haven’t given it much credit. Brusca was raised in Palermo, Italy and began associating with underworld figures from a young age. He eventually became a member of a “death squad,” who completed hits on the orders of boss Salvatore Riina.
Brusca participated in the murder of anti-Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone in 1992. A huge bomb weighing almost half a ton was placed under a motorway in Palermo. When Falcone’s car passed by, Brusca detonated the device killing Falcone and many civilians in the process. The explosion was so massive that it blew a large hole in the road and measured on local earthquake monitors. Soon after Brusca faced problems; a former friend named Giuseppe di Matteo had turned informant and implicated him the Falcone murder. In order to silence Di Matteo, Brusca kidnapped his 11-year-old son and proceeded to torture him over the course of two years. He also sent horrifying pictures of the tortured boy to Di Matteo, demanding that he withdraw his testimony. Eventually the boy was strangled with a garrote and his body dissolved in acid to destroy evidence.
Brusca was sentenced to life imprisonment and went on the run, though still continued his activity in organized crime. Authorities eventually caught up with him and he was arrested in a small house in the Sicilian countryside. The arresting officers wore ski masks to disguise their identity from the Mafia, as reprisal attacks had become so common. He was charged and convicted with multiple murders, on top of the murder sentence he received in absentia and is currently in jail where he will remain for the rest of his days.
John Scalise served as one of Al Capone’s primary hit men during prohibition-era in the 1930s and ’40s. When he was twenty years old he lost his right eye in a knife fight, which was later replaced with a glass one. Afterwards, Scalise strengthened his mob ties and began to accept murder contracts from the Gennas brothers. He later secretly defected to the Chicago outfit and accepted contracts from Al Capone. Scalise also served a fourteen year prison sentence for manslaughter around this time, and he was reportedly beaten severely by fellow inmates.
He is perhaps most famous for being a suspect in the notorious St Valentine’s Day Massacre, when seven people were lined up against a wall and brutally gunned down by gangsters dressed as police officers. Scalise was arrested and charged with the murders, though he was found not guilty due to lack of evidence. In the aftermath, Capone found out that Scalise and two other hitmen were involved in a plot to topple his leadership. He responded by luring the men to a banquet and personally beating all three almost to death with a baseball bat, before an enforcer stepped in to finish the job with a pistol.
Tommy DeSimone’s infamy is recognized by his depiction by actor Joe Pesci in the 1990 movie “Goodfellas.” However, while shown in the film as a small man with an attitude, DeSimone was a large, burly enforcer, standing over 6ft tall and around 225 pounds. He is proven to have killed at least 6 people personally, though the total is thought to be over 11. He was described by informant Henry Hill as a “pure psychopath.”
DeSimone committed his first murder in 1968; while walking down the street with Henry Hill he saw an unknown man walking towards the pair. He turned to Henry and said: “Hey, watch this” then yelled: “Hey cocksucker!” and shot the man dead. This wouldn’t be the last time he killed out of impulse. In a bar owned by mobster Jimmy Burke an argument broke out between DeSimone and a young barman named Michael “Spider” Gianco over an incorrect drinks bill. DeSimone pulled out his pistol and demanded that the barman danced for him. When he refused, DeSimone shot him in the foot. A week later in the same bar DeSimone began to mock Spider for his wounded foot and he responded by saying: “Why don’t you go fuck yourself Tommy?” to which laughter erupted. DeSimone promptly pulled out his pistol and shot Spider three times in the chest, killing him.
After his involvement in the famed Lufthansa Heist Tommy DeSimone became a contract killer for friend and mastermind of the heist, Jimmy Burke, working to eliminate possible informants and increase the share in the loot. One of the murder victims was a very close friend of Tommy named Stacks Edwards, who he was at first reluctant to kill. He was informed by Burke that he might become a “made” member of the mafia if he carried out the hit, so he agreed. Visiting Stacks’ hiding place he shot him six times in the chest with a silenced pistol.
In the end it was Tommy’s quick temper that led to his demise. In a blind rage he had murdered two close friends of Gambino family boss John Gotti; William “Billy Batts” DeVino and Foxy Jerothe. In reprisal for these killings Gotti was thought to have killed DeSimone personally. Henry Hill later said on the Howard Stern show that the murders “took a long time” as Gotti wanted DeSimone to suffer. When he died he was 28-years-old. His remains were never found.
Salvatore Testa was a Philadelphia mobster who served as a hitman for the Scarfo crime family from 1981 until his death in 1984. His father, a highly successful criminal, was assassinated by a nail bomb in 1981 leaving Testa with control of his legitimate and illegitimate businesses. This made Testa immensely rich when he was only 25-years-old.
Testa was an extremely aggressive individual and he killed 15 people personally during the years he was active. One of his many victims was the man who engineered the assassination of his father; mobster and bodyguard Rocco Marinucci. Marinucci’s body was found exactly one year after the assassination of Testa’s father. The corpse was covered in bullet wounds and had three large unexploded cherry bombs stuffed in the mouth. Testa was quoted by surviving gangsters as saying: “I wish that cocksucker was still alive so I could kill him again.”
Testa also survived numerous assassination attempts. The first time, Testa was sitting outside a restaurant in an Italian market, when a Ford Sedan slowed down and a sawn-off shotgun poked out of the window. Testa was caught full in the side with a load of buck shot that penetrated his stomach and nearly severed his left arm. He eventually recovered and the perpetrators were forced to go into hiding after he learned who they were. Testa met his demise after being lured into an ambush by his former mobster friends. He was shot in the back of his head at close range. The motive for his murder was the increasing paranoia of the boss of the Scarfo crime family, who believed Testa was plotting against him.
Sammy the Bull was an associate and eventual underboss of the Gambino crime family. He is perhaps most famous for becoming an informant against former boss John Gotti. His testimony helped put Gotti in prison for the rest of his life. Gravano has also committed numerous murders and contract killings during his criminal career. He was nicknamed “The Bull” because of his size and stature, and his habit of starting fist fights with fellow mobsters.
He began his mafia activity in the late 1960s as an associate of the Colombo crime family. He participated in armed robberies and other petty crimes, though he quickly evolved into the lucrative field of loan sharking. Gravano committed his first murder in 1970. Fellow associate Joe Colluci had been having an affair with Gravano’s friend, Tommy Spero’s wife and had been plotting to kill Spero. Gravano shot Colluci in the head at close range in a mobster-owned bar. The murder earned Gravano respect among powerful underworld figures.
By the early 1970s Gravano was an associate of the Gambino family. He was arrested on suspicion of murder however he was soon released. It was at this time he began a long running robbery spree lasting a year and a half which resulted in him becoming a made man in the Gambino family. He accepted his first contract killing in 1980. A man named John Simone had been part of a conspiracy to murder Philadelphia crime boss Angelo Bruno, without the consent of the mafia commission and in return was sentenced to death. Gravano abducted Simone with the help of two friends and drove him to a wooded area where he was shot in the head and his body disposed of.
Gravano committed his third murder in the early 1980s after a wealthy business magnate insulted him. He was ambushed in the street by Gravano’s friends and shot in the head, then once in each eyeball. Gravano proceeded to spit on the man as he died on the floor. Gravano later became underboss of the Gambino crime family under John Gotti, and was Gotti’s favorite hitman in this period. After being charged with various crimes, he offered evidence against Gotti in return for reduced jail time. He had confessed to 19 murders yet he only received a five year sentence. After his release he went into hiding from the mafia, though he became involved with organized crime in Arizona, and is now in jail.
Greco was an Italian mobster who worked as a contract killer in Palermo, Italy during the 1970s. Unlike other hitmen, Greco operated whilst on the run from the law and was a fugitive for most of his criminal career. He rarely worked alone, instead employing “death squads” of gangsters wielding AK-47s who would routinely ambush victims and spray them with bullets. He was convicted whilst on the run of 58 murders, though the overall total is thought to be over 80. On one notable occasion, he tortured and killed a teenager whose father he had also killed. It is rumored that he dissolved the body in acid.
By 1979 Greco was a high-ranking and respected member of the Mafia Commission. He committed most of his murders between the years 1980-83, during the Second Mafia War. His victim’s bodies were commonly taken to “the room of death” – a shack ran by Mafia figures for torturing, killing and dissolving victims’ bodies in acid. In 1982, Palermo boss Rosaria Riccobono was invited to a barbecue at Greco’s estate. After Riccobono and his most powerful associates arrived, they were murdered by Greco and his “death squad.” The hit had been ordered by boss Salvatore Riina, who was intimidated by Riccobono’s power and wealth. No bodies were ever found and they were reportedly fed to starving pigs.
Greco was murdered in his home in 1985, by two former members of his “death squad.” Ironically it was Salvatore Riina who had ordered the hit, who believed Greco was becoming too ambitious and too independently minded to be kept alive. When he died he was 33-years-old.
Abe Reles was by far the most notorious hitman involved with Murder Inc; a secret group of contract killers who worked for the Mafia from 1920-50. He was mostly active as a mobster during the 1930s, when he killed for various New York crime families. His weapon of choice was an ice pick, which he would expertly use to impale a victim’s head and puncture the brain. Reles was prone to blind rage, and often killed on impulse. On one notable occasion he murdered a parking lot attendant for failing to bring his car fast enough. Another time, he invited a friend for supper at his mother’s house. After the meal was over, he skewered the man with his ice pick and disposed of the body with the help of a friend.
As a teenager Reles became involved in boot-legging during the prohibition era, and soon became well-known in the world of organized crime. He then graduated on to loan sharking and his success implemented him on the hit list of mobster and former friend, Meyer Shapiro. Reles and some of his gangster friends were later ambushed by Shapiro’s men, though no one was killed in the attempted hit. Meyer Shapiro proceeded to kidnap Reles’ girlfriend and rape her in a cornfield. Reles then set out on a mission of revenge; to kill Meyer Shapiro and his two brothers and also take over his illegitimate operations. After several unsuccessful hits, Reles forced entry into Irving Shapiro’s home and dragged him out on the street to humiliate him, before shooting him dead. Two months later, Reles found Meyer Shapiro and shot him in the face at point blank range. Three years passed, before Reles finally located the third and last Shapiro brother. William Shapiro was abducted by Reles and his men, before being severely beaten and later buried alive.
By 1940, Reles faced charges on a number of killings and would most likely be executed if convicted. To save himself he ratted on former friends and members of Murder Inc, all six of whom were executed. He was soon scheduled to testify against powerful mob boss Albert Anastasia, and was under constant guard in a hotel room on the night before the trial. The following morning he was found dead on the pavement outside. It is not known whether he was thrown or pushed out the window, or if he was trying to escape.
Perhaps the most infamous contract killer in history, “Ice Man” Kuklinski is thought to have murdered over 200 men (never women, or children) personally during in his lifetime. He operated in New York and New Jersey from 1950-88 and worked as a hitman for the DeCavalcante crime family, as well as various other prominent crime families. Kuklinski committed his first murder at the age of 14, beating a bully to death with a thick piece of wood. In order to avoid the identification of the body, Kuklinski cut off the boy’s fingertips and removed his teeth before dumping the remains off a South Jersey bridge.
In his teenage years and early twenties, Kuklinski became a notorious serial killer in Manhattan, brutally murdering homeless people for the sheer thrill. Most of his victims were shot or stabbed, and then left to drop were they died. He also began pool hustling for income, whilst beating anyone who opposed him to within an inch of their lives. His reputation for brutality soon caught the attention of various mafia crime families, who sought to utilize his talent for violence by making him an enforcer in their ranks. He became an associate of the Gambino crime family, staging robberies and also pirating pornographic video tapes. One day, a respected made member of the Gambino family named Roy DeMeo took Kuklinski out in his car and they parked on a city street. DeMeo then selected a random target, a man walking his dog. He then ordered Kuklinski to kill him. Kuklinski swiftly got out, walked towards the man and shot him in the back of the head as he passed by. This was the beginning of Kuklinski’s career as a hitman.
Over the next 30 years Kuklinski worked successfully as a contract killer. His nickname of “Iceman” came from his method of freezing his victims to disguise the time of death from authorities. Kuklinski was also famous for his varying methods of execution, the most unusual being the use of a crossbow aimed at a victim’s forehead, though he more commonly utilized cyanide as a poison. When the authorities finally identified Kuklinski as a notorious hitman, they found that no evidence existed to get a murder conviction. As a result they had to rely on a sting operation; an undercover agent pretended to hire Kuklinski for a hit, and recorded Kuklinski talking in-depth about how he would carry it out.
Afterwards, he was soon arrested and charged whilst trying to obtain cyanide for a planned hit. He received five consecutive life sentences for murder after confessing to numerous hits, making him ineligible for parole until his 110th birthday. He died in prison of natural causes when he was 70-years-old.
Opera has long been mistaken to be purely singing. Besides the orchestral music, acting, stage presence and interpretation of the music are what separates a diva from a group of singers. The voice in opera is usually split in to sopranos, mezzo-sopranos, tenors, baritones and basses. You might notice that sopranos and tenors make up 90% of the list. After all, it’s only over when the fat lady sings.
Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was one of the greatest opera singers that lived to recording age. She performed her first opera Orfeo ed Euridice at age 13 in Germany. In an ironic turn of luck, her father was censored by the Nazis, resulting in her inability to study medicine. Her beautifully lyric sound made her ideal for Classical operas, such as Mozart and the operettas of Johann Strauss Jr. and Jacques Offenbach. Her lyricism also made her perfect for the German Lieds. Aside from the regular Schubert, she also shared affinity with the works of Hugo Wolf.
Nicolai Gedda, a Swede, was discovered after his performance of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. After a short period as a moderately successful performer, his shot to fame with the aria “Mes amis, écoutez l’histoire” by Adolphe Adam. This most difficult tenor aria to date reaches an incredible high D, whereas other singers and tenors view the famous top C as the limit of the tenor’s range. Performing a great range of operas, he continues to perform due to his unusually long life. In 2003, he recorded Mozart’s Idomeneo, aged 78.
One of the first African-Americans to be accepted to be a “proper” opera singer, and a little unfortunately still known for her performances in the American opera (debatable) Porgy and Bess. Though the opera seems made for her, the other operas in her repertoire should not be forgotten. Her spin to genre of voice makes her extremely suitable for the rather melodramatic sopranos of Verdi and Puccini. That said, her rendition of Summertime from Porgy and Bess is still a highlight of the entire operatic repertoire.
Fritz Wunderlich probably has the sweetest and most lyric voice in all the tenors. The purity and cleanliness of his voice is instantly recognizable, and made him a superstar early on in his career. His light voice is a stark difference to the German tastes in music then; they preferred heavy Wagnerian voices. However, it allowed him to pursue the Italian operas of Mozart and Verdi. Most of the recordings of him are German translations of the text, due to a common norm of the time to perform in the local language. His work in Lied is perhaps only second to number 1.
Wagner’s operas sought to break away from the Italian/French traditions, and thus sat in a genre of his own. The singers demanded are also of a rather different variety. They are almost all of the dramatic strain in the Fach (voice categories), making them powerful and loud (some called in the Wagnerian Bark). These are qualities not associated with sopranos. Flagstad, however, has a beauty in the roughness of delivery, showing the dramatization of Wagner’s fairytales and yet maintain the dignity and gracefulness of a diva.
The most well-known, Pavarotti has crossed boundaries with his art, becoming a global superstar. His early performance of the aria Pour mon âme, with a breathtaking 9 high Cs gave him the title “King of the High Cs”. His early career included many operas, ranging from the bel canto-styled operas of Donizetti to the modern works of Richard Strauss. The year of 1990, however, would turn out to be one of the highlights of his career. The FIFA World Cup was held in Italy that year, and Pavarotti’s rendition of Nessun Dorma! was chosen to be the theme song of news coverage. It immediately appealed to thousands of non-music listeners, allowing that aria to become part of popular culture.
Responsible for bringing Pavarotti to fame, Sutherland is probably one of the most important sopranos of our times. Her early fame and popularity was due to her gifted high notes, reaching wonderfully soaring notes with ease. Whilst most coloraturas are merely bright and loud, Sutherland was able, when the drama required it, to insert some lyricism into the coloratura arias. A slight complaint some had with her was her unclear words, heeding which she studied the languages of Italian and German to better her pronunciation. She regularly added a wide range of operas into her repertoire, most successfully the bel canto operas. Without doubt, she deserved the nickname “La Stupenda.”
Performing more roles than any other tenor (136 as of July 2021), Domingo has taken a role of a Godfather for modern tenors. His decision to sing the title role of Verdi’s Otello drew much criticism from his management, who were inclined to believe Domingo’s voice was not suitable for the highly powerful and dramatic Othello. Nevertheless, the performance turned out to be legendary and the short opening speech Esultate! has become one of the greatest highlights of his career. Domingo’s versatile voice suits him to many roles, ranging from Wagnerian roles in Die Walküre to Verdi’s Rigoletto, to the operettas of Lehár and even Mahler’s song-cycles.
Her voice has a coarseness and impurity which most would not think to be desirable. However, her rough voice has a magical quality that causes so many generations of listeners to fall in love with it. Her vocal timbre can be described, in its barest, as grainy and strained. Perhaps it is this ‘imperfection’ that imbued a kind of soul into her singing, a uniqueness that no other can remake. Callas mainly focused on the bel canto operas. However, she is also extremely at home with the standard Italian repertoire, contributing much to the pantheon of opera recordings in the early days of commercial classical CDs. Whilst in her time she was embroiled in many scandals, she is remembered today for her wonderful voice. She is rightfully “La Divina.”
A note should be made here that this is my personal favorite singer, and that many others would naturally put him in the top 1. Fischer-Dieskau’s appeal stems from his intricate interpretations of all the roles and pieces he sings. This is especially true in his recordings of Lied, where he is unsurpassed (Look for Der Erlkönig on Youtube, there has not been a singer able to eclipse his performance). He seems to prefer lighter roles, such as in Lieds, Mozartian operas or Masses and other sacred pieces. However, his voice is capable of the heaviness demanded of most operatic baritones, as seen by his performances as Wolfram in Tannhaüser and Scarpia in Tosca. Boasting a huge repertoire, he sings music from Bach in the 1800s to works of his contemporaries. Whilst he is usually associated with Lied, his operatic œuvre is nonetheless impressive.
Few creatures in the world inspire more dread than the rat. Long a symbol of death and pestilence, they haunt our nightmares and scuttle in our walls, scaly tails dragging behind them. Rats cause billions of dollars in damage every year, spoiling food supplies, chewing through electrical wires, biting babies in their cribs – and yet their benefits to mankind have been simultaneously overwhelming. Read below for further information on some of our creepiest neighbors.
Although there are many different species of rats, the one most people associate with the word are Brown or Norway rats. Likely originating in China, the largest specimens can top 2.2lbs. Norway rats plague cities such as New York (where population estimates vary wildly- from a few hundred thousand to a few hundred million depending on your source) and London and have pervaded nearly every corner of the globe with the rare exceptions of Arctic and Antarctic areas, the Canadian province of Alberta, and pockets of New Zealand. The white albino rats used in laboratories and kept as pets are domesticated versions of this species.
Driven to a fraction of their former range by the larger, nastier Brown Rats, Black Rats prefer tropical locales these days, but were once Europe’s dominant species. It was this rat which ushered in the Black Plague. Fleas that lived on the rats transmitted the Yersinia pests bacteria to millions of unwitting victims. The black rat is an excellent climber, and has proven to be the bane of many nesting bird species throughout the world. They are especially pervasive in New Zealand. Unlike their brown counterparts, they tend to be subject to huge population explosions, typically around harvest times when food is abundant.
It is nearly impossible to completely rat-proof your home. They can fit in through openings as small as the diameter of a quarter. According to the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, a rat’s teeth are harder than iron or steel, and are easily able to gnaw through substances like cinderblock and wood. Once they have invaded the home, they are very difficult to get ride of. Rats are clever and notoriously trap shy. Using poison has its drawbacks and well. It is dangerous for children and pets, and even if it works precisely as advertised, one still has to deal with the rats, who often hide themselves in the walls to die and fill the house with the obscene reek of rotting flesh.
Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite whose life cycle can only come fully to fruition in the body of a cat. Other animals can carry it, but it needs a cat to flourish. And the way it finds a host is insidious – rats who become infected suffer a change in the brain chemistry which causes them to become attracted to, rather than naturally fearful of the scent of felines. Obviously, they don’t last long. Humans also contract toxoplasmosis – some estimates indicate 1/3 of the world’s population has it. Occasionally fatal, it is particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women (which is why women are told to avoid cat litter boxes when they are expecting). Toxoplasmosis has also been linked to many other ailments, including schizophrenia.
The spread of rats throughout the world was not due entirely to fortunate circumstance. They are able to adapt to different environments without much difficulty. A rat can go longer without water than a camel. It can fall some five stories without injury. They can survive large doses of radiation, and swim for half a mile across open water. Over generations, they tend to build up certain immunities to poisons. And the biggest, feistiest sewer rats can send your average house cat running for the hills.
While some housecats may have largely lost the ability to take on rats, there are many other creatures that rely on them as a staple of their diets. Owls and hawks, snakes, members of the weasel family, and many large predators eat rats. There any many dog breeds specifically conceived to hunt them – terriers are exceedingly good at eliminating vermin. In many parts of the world, rats are a food source. They are frequently eaten in Africa, China, and other sections of southeast Asia. Even in the same country, there is a fine line between the delicious and the taboo; in certain areas of India, they are considered a delicacy, and in others they are worshiped as scions of the Hindu deity Ganesha.
There is no underestimating the importance of the laboratory rat in research. Great strides have been made in the medical field using rats. There are several strains, inbred so that they becomes almost genetically identical to each other, including the Wistar, the Sprague-Dawley, and the Long-Evans. However, certain genetic manipulations can result in extremely specific types, such as the Biobreeding rat, which develops Type 1 diabetes, and the Zucker rat, which becomes obese. Lately, rats and mice have been used for tissue engineering, a controversial process wherein rodents can grow skin and cartilage for transplant in humans.
For those with a fear of rodents, the Gambian Pouched Rat would be an absolute terror. Similar in appearance to a Norway Rat, the Gambian version can grow up to 15lbs. In its native Africa, it is eaten as bushmeat, but its intelligent and tractable nature has also led it to be used to detect land mines. While huge by rat standards, it is small enough to climb over the mines without detonating them. The Gambian pouched rat has also shown a marked propensity for detecting tuberculosis. It can examine a sample of human sputum and declare whether it is infected far quicker than humans can through more scientific methods. Despite its jarring appearance, the giant rat is actually quite friendly and has a growing following as an exotic pet. Ownership was made briefly illegal in the United States when it was discovered the rats were a vector of the disease monkeypox.
A mating pair of rats can have 5 litters of 7-15 pups in a year, and the pups themselves become fertile around 5 weeks of age. In a vacuum environment, such a pair could theoretically produce hundreds of thousands if not millions of descendants in a single year. Such a prolific rate of breeding is necessarily to keep their species extant, however, because even under auspicious circumstances, a wild rat rarely makes its 2nd birthday. Depending on various environmental factors, the mortality rate is around 95% in a rat’s first few weeks of life.
A rat king is a strange freak accident wherein many rats clustered together become inexorably tangled together by their tails. Several have been found since the Middle Ages, but many doubt the veracity of these specimens. Although not strictly reserved to Germany, the vast majority of rat kings seem to have occurred there, lending some credence to the idea that it is a cultural phenomenon and perhaps something of a hoax. The largest rat king known is a cluster of 32 mummified black rats found in a miller’s fireplace in Buchheim, Germany in 1828. It can be seen on display at the Mauritianum Museum in Altenburg, Germany. Historically, rat kings have been seen as a terrible omen associated with death and disease.
Comedians are a rare breed of people. They are quick on their feet and can provoke laughter while giving insight and truth or just acting plain dumb. It’s the rare comedian that pushes themselves and decides to try something new. Instead of laughter, why not evoke sadness? Or anger? Or transform themselves into something we never thought they could be. Below are the top 10 comedians who’ve gone beyond comedy and given us a new side of themselves. (A small note here: I hope this list doesn’t give the impression I hate comedies. Far from it. I’m just not a fan of repetition or second-best.)
Punch-Drunk Love is a romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler. Hold on, hold on. It’s directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There Will be Blood) and Sandler portrays his character as a realistic version of his Happy Gilmore self. Instead of the whole world being his playground and accepting of his reckless and selfless behavior he’s now a mentally-unstable man who’s desperately alone and afraid. We’ve seen Sandler act mean before this but never in such a spiteful and hurtful way. It’s this side to him that makes the later part of the film work, where he meets a woman who balances him out and he finds something to care about and fight for. Sandler gives a performance that surprised everybody and makes his current film roles even more of a disappointment.
While not a strict drama, it’s Wilson’s performance that has a lot of depth too it. It’s also not his first ‘serious’ role, as he’s been in Behind Enemy Lines and The Haunting, but those were before he became typecast as the reliable funny man. Wilson plays one of three brothers (the other two being Adrian Brody and Jason Schwartzman) on a train traveling across India. Along the way the estranged brothers grow closer and begin to bond, opening up old wounds and burying various hatchets. The most interesting thing about Francis, Wilson’s character, is (spoiler alert) that his character is wearing bandages because of a suicide attempt and this film came out after Wilson himself had attempted suicide. It adds a certain sadness to the character, who wants to atone for opportunities and has a new appreciation of life. Wilson plays it much more quiet than usual and gives the character meaning.
Alright, this may be considered cheating, because Louis C.K.’s Louie is a reflection of Louis’ real life and is intended as a comedy. The thing is though, anyone who’s watched the show knows that it’s more than that. It does have many funny moments (Louis’ deconstruction of a heckler and the numerous standup segments that open and close the show) but there are just as many serious moments (Louis’ conversation with a friend who’s made up his mind about killing himself, and protecting his daughters from two Halloween thugs) so it’s a definite genre mix. We’ve seen in Louis’ standup he’s a man of deep thought and honesty but seeing him portray a character, even one based off himself, who’s such an everyday man with the same hopes and despairs and wants and needs of the average person is refreshing because we don’t get the lighthearted fictional worlds of happiness and sunshine we see in normal shows.
Patton Oswalt is an overweight nerd. That’s not an insult, because I’m pretty sure that’s how Oswalt would describe himself. He has numerous routines on Star Wars and video games and he’s always happy and jovial. That’s what makes Big Fan so shocking. In it, Oswalt is a lonely, massive sports nut who spots his favorite player and ends up following him into a night club. When he finally approaches him, the sports star is violent and angry, and thinking Oswalt is stalking him, beats him half to death. What follows is Oswalt’s mental health slowly slipping, as he refuses to sue the player and takes the blame for the incident. His few friends ostracize him as he begins to have outbursts and eventually heads to a rival teams sports-bar where he confronts another huge sports nut and this is where we see him fully break down. I won’t say what happens but the character is given a lot of depth and we’re able to easily sympathize with somebody who we shouldn’t much care for. It’s a remarkable performance by a comedian who spends a lot of time providing voices for silly cartoons.
Will Ferrel, for most of his career previous and post this film, has played a petulant man-child. It’s this odd role of his that stands out after a series of comedies where he largely played the same character. In this film by Marc Forster, Ferrel plays an IRS agent whose life begins to be narrated by an author played by Emma Thompson. In the midst of this existential crisis, Ferrel falls for a woman who he’s audited, Maggie Gyllenhaal and finding that Thompson’s characters are always killed in the end, decides to live life to the fullest. There’s a gravity to Ferrel’s performance that we don’t see often, in comedians or elsewhere. He’s a man of routine that seems hollow, but once given a reason to live, is shown to be full of heart and hope.
Again, this could be argued as cheating, due to Reynolds not strictly being a comedian, but largely his roles are of a funny, fast-talking wise guy. Buried, an experimental film by Rodrigo CortÃ©s, places Reynolds in a coffin for an hour and a half. That is the entire movie. One actor, one location. It would take a great actor to really pull us in and keep us engrossed, and when thinking of that actor, Van Wilder does not come to mind. Yet Reynolds pulls it off. He’s able to emote easily though bodily language and his eyes, and we hear the desperation and strain in his voice as the movie continues and we find out more about why he was buried alive. It’s a very different movie, not just for him but as a whole, with its focus on camera shots and atmosphere. Reynolds is not a hero, a badass, a funny man, or anything like we’ve seen of him before. He’s a man who’s in a very dangerous situation, scared, confused, and alone, and we’re able to feel this.
Michael Keaton, before Batman, did have some dramatic roles. None of them were a huge success, though, and it was the comedies he starred in that really put him on the map. Maybe that was why, when he was announced as Batman, that fans were very upset. They didn’t think Beetlejuice or Mr. Mom could ever be the dark, brooding protector of Gotham. Yet, like Heath Ledger many years later, their mouths were shut. Keaton and director Tim Burton brought something new to the Dark Knight. Instead of the camp and lighthearted silliness of the Adam West era, this new Batman was full of dark imagery and adult themes, and drove home the villainy of his foes and the heroism of the Batman. Keaton, as Bruce Wayne, played the role similar to Christian Bale – he was a womanizer and a partier, but unlike Bale, who’s Wayne was over the top and loud, Keaton’s was more easily seen as a projection and a show when looked upon closely. As Batman, he had the right sense of confidence, anger, and vengeance needed to make a convincing hero full of confliction and mixed emotion.
Robin Williams started out as a comedian who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and say whatever the hell he wanted to say. This confidence added with his manic comedic ability landed him various parts in film and television, where he began to be used for the same role over and over. Unlike other actors, he took offense to this. He was an actor and he would prove it. Williams began taking heavier roles in dramas, going from Mork and Mindy to Deat Poets Society, from Popeye to Awakenings. More and more, this type of work began to balance his equally large comedic background. That’s why I found it hard to choose one film to showcase his dramatic talent. One Hour Photo, directed by Mark Romanek, is the role that Williams fully loses himself in. It’s a complete transformation and that’s why I chose it. In it, he plays a depressed, lonely, mentally-ill photo technician who, over the years, develops film rolls for a growing family. He sees the young couple grow from naive young adults to full fledged parents, all in a large span of pictures. Growing attached to them, he begins to wish to be a part of their family and becomes obsessed with them. Williams completely embodies this character. We don’t know if he’ll implode or explode, but we know he’s on the edge. We still feel feel for him, though. He’s an old man who we can tell has been hurt and all he wants is acceptance. It’s a mesmerizing role by an actor who seems to have infinite range.
Jim Carrey, much like Will Ferrel and Adam Sandler, is popular for a certain type of role. A goofy, over-the-top, scenery chewing madman. It was completely surprising when The Truman Show hit, and we saw a whole new side of him. There was potential. Man on the Moon came out and we saw even more. Eventually The Majestic was released, and while not a perfect movie, showed even more of the Jim Carrey hiding behind a mask of tomfoolery. It wasn’t until the Michael Gondry-directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind hit theaters that we saw Carrey’s full potential. Playing a man who comes out of a disastrous relationship and goes through an operation to have the girl erased from his memory only to find, at the last moment, that he wishes to keep these memories, Carrey is unlike we’ve ever seen him. His character is a shell of his former self, a former self who was never that happy in the first place. He’s socially awkward, alone, weird, and prone to puppy love. He’s needy but he’s been hurt, leaving him a constant state of relationship paranoia. We feel everything Carrey does as he travels through his memories and we see snippets of his best moments and his worst. We root for him, because in some way or another, we can all relate. Even in the end, and spoiler alerts here, where Clementine (Kate Winslet) and him realize their relationship will never work, his shrug and words of “OK…” are heartbreaking, because we know they’ll try again and fail, but even with that knowledge, we hope it’ll work, because they only have each other. Carrey shows all of this in his performance with a sense of innocence and humanity. It’s a very subtle role, a far cry from his early days as an attention seeking clown.
Was there really any other choice? Bill Murray, along with Robin Williams, are the two actors who comes to mind when you think of a comedian playing it serious. Murray has a long list of comedic vehicles, and his typecast, while growing more droll in recent years, has been that of a sarcastic, bitter, asshole. The most obvious choice for a serious role of his is Lost in Translation, but while Murray is excellent in it, there isn’t much range shown. Broken Flowers, I feel, shows more of what Murray is capable of. After getting a letter informing he has a son, Murray travels across the country to find former lovers to see who sent the letter. The character is a womanizer who’s found himself solitary, with few friends and a pessimistic outlook on everything. As he visits various past flames we see him realize that the common denominator is him. He’s not a good guy and he wrestles with this, and eventually decides that the idea of being a father might be exactly what he was looking for. At the end of the film, his search is fruitless and when he comes home, he has a conversation with a drifter who he thinks is his son, but comes on too strong and the young man flees. Murray chases after him but ends up in the middle of a literal crossroads, where he sees another teenager drive by listening to the music Murray listens to. A vivid emotion of acceptance and hopelessness crosses his face as his past has caught up to him and the bridges he’s burnt leave him nowhere. It’s a role that seems to reflect Murray’s own personal life, and it comes across as semi-biographical. There’s a ton of emotion in his performance and we see the gradual changes in his perspective and feeling. It’s a marvelous job by one of the funniest, most genuine, hard-working men in Hollywood.
The insanity defense is one of the most popularly depicted criminal defense strategies in television and film culture. In legal definition, the McNaughten rule dictates that a person may be considered not responsible for a crime if their state of mind is in a diminished capacity, or he did not know it was wrong. This has given life to the perception that the defense has an easy solution to evading jail time. For example, the perception was further fueled by the portrayal of Jack Nicholson’s character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, who chose to be committed to a mental hospital to avoid hard labor in jail.
Nonetheless, the insanity defense as a strategy is fascinating. Its validity has been widely debated since its inception in the 20th century, mainly due to the difficulty in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal was insane during the commitment of their crimes. There are also ethical implications of allowing deranged criminals to avoid incarceration. The following list explores some of the most notorious cases and debunks some of their popular misconceptions at the same time.
In 1941, the two brothers robbed a payroll truck in Manhattan and killed an office manager and a police officer in the process. In the subsequent trial, the brothers attempted to prove their insanity through extreme behavior. For example, they would bang their heads against the table until they bled, bark like dogs, drool, and cry uncontrollably. The court was unconvinced and proceeded to charge them for their offenses. Towards the end of their incarceration, they pursued a hunger strike for a total of 10 months, refusing any food. On the 12th of March 1942, they were taken to the electric chair in a state of near-death and executed. To this day, the Espositos’ trial verdict remains a record for deliberation, which took approximately one minute to deliver. In its time, it served to correct the misconception that criminals who plead an insanity defense often walk as free men, which is rarely the case. Even if a person was determined to be mentally ill, a study at a mental institution in New York found that some patients spent a far longer amount of time committed than they would have spent in prison for their crimes.
This was the first use of the insanity plea in the United States. Daniel Sickles was known for being a New York politician and Civil War Union General as much as his public scandals and controversies. He married Teresa Bagioli when he was 33. She was 15 at the time. This was also the same man who chose not to present his pregnant wife at home to Queen Victoria but instead hired the services of a common prostitute, Fanny White, for the dignified task. However, his greatest scandal came when he shot and killed Philip Barton Key in Lafayette Park for having an affair with said wife, Teresa. In the much-publicized trial, he claimed temporary insanity as he was enraged with his wife’s infidelity at the time. Before an all-male jury, Daniel Sickles was acquitted of murder charges in 1859. In the aftermath of the trial, the public was not only nonchalant to the outrageous claim but applauded his actions for liberating the ladies of Washington from the adulterer Philip. Coincidentally, Philip was also the son of Francis Scott Key, the writer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In 1981, Steinberg was charged with killing his wife, Elena, with a kitchen knife. Elena was stabbed 26 times. It should also be noted that Steinberg was the one who called the police reporting an attempted burglary gone awry, though the police found no signs of a break-in. The case drew much publicity in Arizona not only for the heinous crime but because it was a case of homicidal somnambulism, or simply known as sleepwalking murder. To quote legal argument, “The defendant was not in his normal state of mind when he committed the act. Sleepwalking is parasomnia manifested by automatism; thus, harmful actions committed while in this state cannot be blamed on the perpetrator.” Steinberg claimed he did not remember the crime and was sleeping at the time, hence the murder while sleepwalking. Not only that, he did not deny the fact that he murdered his wife. In his criminal trial, the jury found him not guilty because he was temporarily insane when he committed the crime. Although Steinberg fabricated the story about the intruders, he walked away as a free man. Members of the jury were also quoted later as saying they were aware that they were releasing a killer, but he was not criminally responsible for his actions.
Andrea Yates was convicted in 2002 for the capital murders of three of her five children and sentenced to life in prison, where she was to serve at least forty years. Yates’s life appeared normal; she was an athlete, a college graduate, and a registered nurse. But, in 2001, the world learned about Yates’s inner struggles when she filled a bath with water and methodically drowned, one by one, her five children: Noah, 7 years old; John, 5 years; Paul, 3 years; Luke, 2 years; and Mary, who was just 6 months. She then phoned the emergency services and asked the police to come to the house. She also called her husband, Rusty, at work and told him he needed to come home. When a police officer arrived and asked her what was wrong, she immediately told him, “I killed my kids.”
In 2005, her conviction was overturned, and a new trial was ordered. Yates was retried in 2006 and found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity. Yates had a long medical history of suffering from severe postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. She experienced episodes of psychotic behavior after the birth of each of her children. In jail, she claimed she had considered killing the children for 2 years. Yates also claimed she was not a good mother and that she was marked by Satan. And the only way to save her children from hell was to kill them. Even though she sought treatment for a mental disorder, Yates said she wasn’t depressed because she never cried.
Yates’s attorneys insisted that her post-partum depressions played a significant role in her actions. Her case also shed light on the inadequate insurance coverage for people with mental health disorders. Just weeks before the murders, Yates was released from a mental hospital because her insurance stopped paying. She was told by her psychiatrist to think happy thoughts. Despite warnings from her doctors, she was left alone with the children. This was one of the cases when the plea, innocent by reason of insanity, was justified.
The next entry on the list is probably the most famous one yet. In 1981, Hinckley developed an obsession with the movie Taxi Driver, in which Jodie Foster stars as a child prostitute, and Robert De Niro plays Travis Bickle, who plots to assassinate the presidential candidate in the film. He personally watched the movie 15 times consecutively and grew infatuated with Jodie Foster. Hinckley then began to stalk the actress by relocating to New Haven, Connecticut, near Yale University, where she was enrolled. He signed up for a Yale writing class, slipped her poems and messages through her door, and called her persistently. As he grew more desperate in his attempts, he even considered taking his own life in front of her to gain her attention. Eventually, he decided to attempt an assassination on President Ronald Reagan. As the president left the Hilton Hotel, he shot six times at Reagan, wounding a few other people in the process. One of the bullets hit the president in the chest, but he survived the attempt. Hinckley’s defense team pled for an insanity defense and succeeded; he was acquitted of all 13 charges of assault, murder, and weapon counts. Due to the high profile of the case, the public perceived the insanity defense as a loophole in the legal system, which allowed a clearly guilty criminal to dodge incarceration. The controversy lay in the fact that before the assassination attempt, the insanity defense was only used in 2 percent of the felony cases and, in those cases, failed over 75 percent of the time. Nonetheless, most states were pressured to enact legislative reforms regarding the use of the insanity defense.
In 1994, Jenny Jones, a national talk show host, was in the midst of producing a program about same-sex crushes. They hunted for people who would openly admit to having a crush on television and found Scott Amedure, who had a crush on his friend Jonathan Schmitz. The show’s producers invited Schmitz to the show, explaining that someone had a crush on him. The producers reasserted that Schmitz was fully aware that the show was about same-sex crushes. Schmitz would later claim that he expected to find his ex-girlfriend on stage but found Amedure instead, who described his sexual fantasy involving Schmitz on the program. Three days later, Amedure left Schmitz a suggestive note. Upon finding the note, Schmitz purchased a shotgun, confronted him, and finally shot him twice in the chest, killing him. This is a special entry because of the defense used, known as the gay panic defense. It is defined as a state of temporary insanity caused by undesirable homosexual advances. It is controversial because it is a little-known psychosis, and its validity is widely debated within jurisdictions. The media then lampooned the case as the Jenny Jones trial. Despite the defense, Schmitz was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 to 50 years in jail. The Jenny Jones Show was also later sued for negligence for creating a hostile scenario without considering the potential consequences. They were found guilty, but the judgment was overturned on appeal.
Lorena and John Bobbitt were a young couple from Virginia. John had a history of mentally and sexually abusing Lorena throughout their marriage. On June 23rd, 1993, John arrived home highly inebriated and proceeded to rape Lorena. After the incident, Lorena stepped into the kitchen for a drink of water and saw a carving knife on the counter. This evoked memories of the years of domestic abuse that had been taking place. Lorena then walked back into the bedroom where John was sleeping and “cut off almost half of his penis” with the knife. With the severed penis in hand, Lorena left the apartment, drove to a field, and threw it away. Finally, she made the call to 911, in which a team then searched for the genitalia and was able to recover it. John was taken to the hospital, and his penis was able to be surgically reattached. During the trial, Lorena revealed the details of their marriage and the domestic abuse. Her defense claimed that she was suffering from clinical depression from it, causing her to wound her husband. The jury deliberated, and Lorena was acquitted of the charges due to temporary insanity and could not be held responsible for her actions. She was, however, ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation for 45 days and was released thereafter. In the aftermath of the much-publicized trial, she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about her experience and has since been an advocate for domestic violence causes.
Dahmer was a notorious serial killer and sex offender in 1991. His long list of offenses involved sex, cannibalism, necrophilia, and dismemberment. Since he was a child, he had shown symptoms of withdrawal and avoidance of any social interactions. He would collect dead animals, then dissect, dissolve, or mutilate them in various ways. He committed the first murder in 1978, bludgeoning to death Steven Hicks, a hitchhiker, because “the guy wanted to leave, and I didn’t want him to.” In September 1987, he picked up Steven Tuomi at a gay bar and killed him out of impulse, claiming no memory of the event later in the trial. In 1988, he was also arrested for giving drugs and sexually fondling a 13-year-old boy, Somsack Sinthasomphone. As a registered sex offender, he would then proceed to commit 15 more murders, storing the corpses in vats. Dahmer kept trophies of his victims, such as human skulls and genitalia in the closet and “saving” biceps and the human heart in the freezer for later consumption. In 1991, Tracy Edwards, a would-be victim, overpowered Dahmer, ran through the streets, and waved for the police car.
In the trial, Dahmer pled not guilty by reason of insanity. The plea was subsequently rejected, and Dahmer was convicted of all 15 murder charges and sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences. The case was seen by many as the death of the insanity plea. They contended that if a deranged criminal like Dahmer is rejected on the insanity plea, no other criminal would qualify to use the defense.
Gacy was a prolific serial killer in the 1970s in the U.S. He gained notoriety as the Killer Clown for dressing up as “Pogo the Clown” and performing at parties and events. He later raped and killed 33 young boys and men in Chicago. He claimed that he lost count of how many of his victims he had buried in a crawl space he dug and reported that he had thrown 5 of them into the Des Plaines River because it had run out of room. The discovery of his murders and subsequent arrest shook the community, as he was known for his active involvement with local projects and his volunteer work as the said clown, even meeting the First Lady Rosalynn Carter who personally thanked him for his efforts. Many of his victims were lured into his home and then murdered through asphyxiation by a tourniquet, not strangulation. This meant that they were cut off from most but not all of the oxygen supply, resulting in the victims convulsing for an hour or two before the eventual death.
He pled not guilty by reason of insanity and produced psychiatric experts who would testify for his case. The prosecution team rejected this due to the extensive measures Gacy took in avoiding detection, including ordering his own construction company’s employees to dig the crawl space, which he claimed to be a drainage trench. Also, his defense team actually attempted to argue that all of the 33 murders were due to accidental erotic asphyxiation, a claim which the county coroner quickly refuted. Gacy was found guilty of each murder and was sentenced to death by lethal injection.
Even after his sentencing, he continued to draw controversy. During his 14 years spent on death row, Gacy painted various drawings, which were sold for amounts up to $9,500. This drew the ire of the community towards Gacy for making money from the sales and the art exhibitions held in his name, leading to communal bonfires in which the paintings were bought for the sole purpose of being burned. Not only that, but Gacy also inspired films and books which chronicled his killings and life. One of the more notable books was written by Jason Moss, who was so fascinated by serial killers that he established communication with Gacy on death row, pretended to be a gay hustler, visited him face to face, and claimed he was almost Gacy’s final victim. He was dubbed as a serial killer groupie due to his intense fascination, and in 2006, Moss committed suicide from a gunshot to the head.
“They smelled too bad” was a quote from Ed Gein, who claimed that he would never have intercourse with any of the dead bodies he dug out of their graves. What he did take an interest in, however, was skinning the corpses and wearing them. On other occasions, he would collect various body parts and use them as decorative items at his homestead in Wisconsin. For example, a suit made of human skin, a belt made out of female nipples, a lampshade made out of a human face, a refrigerator filled with human organs, vulvas in a shoebox, and many others, including noses, skulls, heads, and a pair of lips on a drawstring.
This grave robber was perversely fascinated with his deceased mother and the intimacy of female body parts. In 1957, he was arrested and tried for the murder of Bernice Worden, although he also confessed to killing at least two others but was not charged due to cost issues, according to the judge in his case. Gein pled not guilty by reason of insanity and was deemed legally insane. After an 11-year stint in the hospital for the criminally insane, he was tried in 1968 and was found guilty of first-degree murder. Gein served a life sentence in a mental hospital until his death.
Gein gained further notoriety because the county sheriff Art Schley was so horrified by the severity of his crime that he assaulted Gein during questioning. He subsequently suffered a heart attack and died a month after testifying at the trial. In modern-day pop culture, Gein served as character inspirations to a myriad of famous horror movie franchises. Gein tops the list for being most notorious due to the film industry’s obsession with Gein, immortalizing him in seemingly literal depictions of his character such as Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs, who were fond of grotesque dismemberment and skinning of their victims.
Happy Friday the 13th for tomorrow, the second one of 2021. The year 2021 is one of the rare years in which there are three Friday the 13ths – January, April, and July. That combination of a year where Friday the 13th happens three times in January, April, and July only happens on leap years. In January we celebrated this event with a list of ten lesser-known Friday the 13th events and here is another list in time for our second unlucky Friday of the year. As with the January list, this list will focus on ten of the lesser-known events that occurred on Friday the 13th.
On Friday February 13, 1970, Black Sabbath released their first album in the United Kingdom. Given only two days of studio time to record it, the band played all of the songs live, saving the second day to mix what they had recorded. The album “Black Sabbath” went on to reach #8 on the UK album charts and when released in the USA, it reached #23 on the Billboard charts. The album remained in the Billboard charts for over a year and was a commercial (though not a critical) success. The album went on to earn platinum selling status in both the US and the UK. The band wasted no time capitalizing on the success of their first album and were back in the studio in June 1970 to record their second album “Paranoid” which had the hit single of the same name.
On Friday January 13, 1988, the US Supreme Court handed down a ruling in the case Hazelwood School District et al. v. Kuhlmeier et al. that gave public school administrations broad power to censor school newspapers. In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that student newspapers not established specifically for the purpose of providing students with a forum for free expression, are subject to lower levels of First Amendment protection. Thus the court allowed public schools to put restrictions on what could appear in school-sponsored student publications.
In the case in question, a public school in Missouri published a school paper (The Spectrum) that was fully paid for and supported by the school district. The issue had stories on teen pregnancy and divorce which the school principal felt needed to be removed. When these stories were removed, three of the students sued claiming the decision to remove the articles from the paper violated their First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court held that “the First Amendment protection for student expression described did not compel a public school to affirmatively sponsor speech that conflicts with its “legitimate pedagogical goals.” The school-financed newspaper at issue was also not considered to be a public forum under the totality of circumstances present in the case, and therefore, its editors were entitled to a lower level of First Amendment protection than is applicable to independent student newspapers or those newspapers that have, by policy and practice, opened their page to student opinion.” Source – Wikipedia.
On Friday February 13, 1981, in the city of Louisville Kentucky, it seemed like the city was under attack. A series of underground explosions in the city’s sewer system destroyed more than two miles of streets. Somehow, there were no fatalities but the damage was so extensive the National Guard was called in.
It began around 5:15 a.m. on the morning of Friday the 13th when a spark from a car at the intersection of 12th and Hill streets ignited flammable vapors in the sewer system. Two women on their way to work at the local hospital were driving under the railroad overpass when the sparks from their car ignited the vapors. The force of the explosion hurled the car onto its side but neither occupant was killed. Overhead, a police helicopter happened to be traveling above the city. What they saw was incredible – a series of explosions like demolitions detonating up and down city streets, one after the other. The pilot described what they saw as looking like “a bombing run.” More than two miles of streets were left with craters where manhole covers for the sewer had once been. Many business and homes were damaged by the explosions.
The source of the blast was traced back to hexane vapors, which had been illegally discharged by a Ralston-Purina soybean processing plant. The hexane (which is a solvent) was used in the processing of the soybeans and the plant had a system to recover and reuse the hexane. However, that night, the system was broken and hundreds if not thousands of gallons of the hexane went into the public sewer system. Inside the sewers, the vapors from the hexane accumulated and reached an explosive mixture with air. The flammable and explosive vapors came out of the manhole covers and all it needed was a spark to set it off. Ralston-Purina would later pay $18 million to the city and $9 million to the people of Louisville.
In 1960 the United States was rushing to catch up to the Russians in the space race. That year, the US introduced the Delta family of rockets meant to be the backbone of the US military, commercial, and space exploration business. The Delta rockets were designed to be versatile, expendable launch vehicles that could be used to launch different size and weight satellites and other hardware into different levels of orbit. The first launch of a Delta rocket was scheduled for Friday, May 13, 1960. Perhaps they should have waited until Saturday?
That day, the Delta rocket was set to launch the first US experimental communications satellite called Echo. Echo was essentially a large metal-covered balloon that would circle the Earth and be able to bounce communication signals from one area to another.
On May 13, 1960, at Cape Canaveral, the launch took place. The first stage of the multi-stage rocket worked fine and the vehicle rose off the launch pad. However, troubles developed with the second stage of the rocket and the Echo satellite never reached the intended orbit. Echo only orbited the Earth for a few months.
In spite of the dubious beginning, the Delta rocket has proven to be remarkably successful. Over 300 Delta rockets have been launched since 1960 with a 95% success rate. The Delta II and Delta III launch systems are still in use today.
On Friday August 13, 1993, the Royal Plaza Hotel in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, collapsed killing 137 people and injuring 227.
Thought to be the finest hotel in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, the Royal Hotel was hosting several large conferences for teachers and oil company workers that day. At around 10:10 a.m., the building suddenly and quickly collapsed. The entire collapse was estimated to have taken less than 10 seconds as all of the upper floors fell down onto the lower floors.
In 1990, the then three-story building was renovated and three additional stories were added to the building. The three additional stories were added without permit and without strengthening the support structure of the building. Somehow, the building stayed vertical for three years. Eventually, the lower ground floor support structure weakened beyond the point it could hold the force of the five stories above it. This led to an almost completely vertical collapse of the building.
The engineer who designed the additional floors was arrested and jailed. Safety inspectors had taken bribes to allow the construction to take place. Remarking on the lack of safety and regulations, corruption, bribery and building construction in Thailand, the Prime Minister, Chuan Likphai noted, “It seems we Thais do not respect regulations and this has resulted in frequent problems.”
A terrible tragedy occurred in Delhi, India on Friday June 13, 1997, when the Uphaar Cinema building caught fire. The resulting fire and stampede killed 59 people and injured another 103.
The multi-floor theater was packed with a crowd to see the Hindi movie “Border” when the fire stared at around 5:00 p.m. Below the theater was a parking garage and though it was capable of handling 18 cars, 36 cars were crammed into the space. Also in the basement-parking garage was a 1000 kVA electrical transformer. Earlier that day, the transformer had caught fire but the fire was put out and repairs made. At around 5:00 p.m. however, the transformer began to leak oil and this ignited. Quickly the cars in the garage also caught fire. The fire then spread to the rest of the five-story structure, which housed the cinema and offices. Most of the victims were trapped on the balcony, unable to reach dimly marked exits, and crushed by the stampede of people who found some of the exits were locked. Due to a similar transformer fire incident 14 years earlier, the licenses for 12 cinemas, including the Uphaar, had been canceled due to multiple serious safety violations. However in those 14 years between the citation and the deadly fire, none of the safety violations had been corrected.
It was Curt Flood who in 1970 first challenged baseball’s reserve clause, the contract provision that kept players indentured to a single team. Flood lost both a Supreme Court case and his career. But his sacrifice allowed Jim “Catfish” Hunter to rack up a win. On Friday December 13, 1974, just months after Hunter’s Oakland A’s had won the World Series, an arbitrator ruled that by breaching part of Hunter’s contract, A’s owner Charles O. Finley had invalidated the entire contract, including the reserve clause.
Hunter had a contract with the Athletics that stipulated the team make a payment into an insurance fund. A’s owner Charles Finley refused to pay the money. Hunter challenged this and the arbitrator decided in his favor. By ruling that the contract and the reserve clause in the contract were void, as a result of Finley refusing to pay the insurance cost, the arbitrator set Hunter free of the Athletics, making him the first free agent in baseball history. Hunter would go on to sign a $3.75 million contract with the New York Yankees which at the time ranked as the largest in baseball’s history.
On Friday May 13, 1917 the first apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in the village of Fatima Portugal. The three children were Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto. While tending sheep in the fields outside the village the children reported seeing a woman dressed in white and “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” The woman asked the children to return to the spot at the same time every 13th of the month for the next six months. As this was the time of the horrors of World War One, she then added, “Recite the rosary every day to obtain peace in the world and the end of the war.”
In total there were six apparitions of the Virgin Mary from May 13 to October 13, 1917. After the first apparition, the children returned on June 13th, this time with hundreds of believers. After the people prayed, the Virgin Mary reappeared before Lucy and announced to Lucy: “I will soon take Francisco and Jacinta to heaven, but you will remain here for some time. Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved.” Both Francisco and Jacinta would be dead within three years time. Both children died during the 1918-1920 pandemic flu outbreak.
During the July 13th apparition, the Virgin Mary reveled herself to and spoke to Lucy once again (the crowd of people, estimated to be 4,000 or more, could not see or hear her, only Lucy). She told Lucy: “I want you to continue to say your rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain the end of the war and peace in the world”. She also told Lucy three prophecies that Lucy was to keep secret for some time. Two of these secrets were disclosed in 1942, the third in 2000. These secrets became known as the Three Secrets of Fátima.
On October 13, 1917, during the final visitation, there occurred “The Miracle of the Sun.” This was the miracle the Virgin Mary had predicted she would unfold to cause unbelievers to believe. A crowd estimated to be 30,000 strong was at the site of the previous apparitions when many witnesses saw unusual affects on and of the sun. There was a brief period of rain, then the clouds broke, and when the sun reappeared it was seen as an opaque, spinning disc giving off many colors on the ground, the people, and the clouds. Many thought it was a sign of the end of the world, others reported the sun zigzagged through the sky. Still others claimed their clothing, which had become wet from the rain, instantly dried and the mud at their feet baked dry.
On Friday April 13, 1883, Alfred Packer was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for allegedly killing and eating five people. He was one of only two Americans ever convicted of the crime of cannibalism. Later his crime was lowered to manslaughter and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
In late November 1873, Packer and five other men, Shannon Wilson Bell, James Humphrey, Frank Miller, George Noon and Israel Swan, broke off from a larger party of prospectors heading into the mountains of Colorado near Breckinridge to prospect for gold. In January 1874 the men consulted with a well-known Indian familiar with their destination who advised the men to wait until spring before setting off to avoid the deadly winter months. They ignored his advice and set off into the mountains headed for Gunnison Colorado on February 9th, 1874. Quickly the men became lost and ran out of provisions. Packer later claimed that he went off scouting for food and when he returned to camp he found Bell roasting human meat over the fire. Packer claimed Bell rushed him with a hatchet in hand. Packer shot him dead. He then ate the other men and in mid April finally wandered into Gunnison. There he was arrested and tried for the murder of the five men, and eating them for food. Though he claimed he did not kill the men, he did admit to eating them, and eventually signed a confession.
Packer would escape prison, be recaptured, and then paroled by the Governor in 1901. He died in 1907. His legend lived on though. He was once quoted as having said, in jest, “the breasts of man… are the sweetest meat I ever tasted.”
The asteroid Apiophis is named after a mythological Egyptian god of evil who was determined to cast the world into darkness. It appears the asteroid was appropriately named. On Friday April 13, 2029, Apiophis (which is the size of The Rose Bowl, about 1,100 feet across) will come closer to the Earth than the orbit of satellites (at a distance of only 18,000 miles from Earth). Though it will be closer to Earth than many satellites, fortunately, it will come in towards the Earth at an angle that keeps it out of the densely populated Earth satellite region and collisions with satellites should not occur. The asteroid will be close enough to Earth that, even in daylight, observers will see a bright object move across the sky. If the asteroid enters a specific trajectory known as “they keyhole” then the influence of Earth’s gravity will ensure that the asteroid heads off towards the Sun on a trajectory that will guarantee it will strike the Earth the next time it comes around the Sun and approaches our planet. Seven years after that close Earth approach, should the asteroid go through “the keyhole,” Apiophis will hit the Earth in the year 2036. Should it miss the keyhole, the asteroid will not hit the Earth in 2036.
However, should Apiophis collide with the Earth, it will cause major damage. The impact would be the equivalent of 100,000 nuclear bombs and would destroy thousands of square miles. Should it land in the ocean, the resulting tsunami would devastate coastal areas. Let us hope Friday the 13th of April 2029 is a lucky, and not an unlucky Friday the 13th.
The Simpsons first appeared in its current format in 1989. Since then it has become hugely successful and is the longest running US sitcom. It would never have lasted so long if it did not have some of the funniest writing on TV. While fans debate whether the series has gone down hill in recent series, I think we can all agree that it has given some great laugh-out-loud quotes. Here are twenty of the best.
Bart: I don’t want a new dog. I want Santa’s Little Helper!
Homer: Well, crying isn’t gonna bring him back, unless your tears smell like dog food. So you can either sit there crying and eating can after can of dog food until your tears smell enough like dog food to make your dog come back or you can go out there and find your dog… Rats, I almost had him eating dog food.
Groundskeeper Willie: It won’t last. Brothers and sisters are natural enemies! Like Englishmen and Scots! Or Welshmen and Scots! Or Japanese and Scots! Or Scots and other Scots! Damn Scots! They ruined Scotland!
Principal Skinner: You Scots sure are a contentious people.
Willie: You just made an enemy for life!
Mr. Burns: Oooh, so Mother Nature needs a favor?! Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys! Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she’s losing. Well I say ‘hard cheese.’
Grandpa: Metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets forty rods to the hogs-head and that’s the way I likes it! (In real terms, that’s 0.8m per litre.)
Homer: Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals … except the weasel.
Homer: Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.
Homer: I’m normally not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me, Superman.
Homer: Books are useless! I only ever read one book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and it gave me absolutely no insight on how to kill mockingbirds! Sure it taught me not to judge a man by the color of his skin… but what good does that do me?
Mr. Burns: I’ll keep it short and sweet. Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business. When opportunity knocks, you don’t want to be driving to a maternity hospital or sitting in some phony-baloney church. [Narrows eyes] Or synagogue.
Kent Brockman: Things aren’t as happy as they used to be down here at the unemployment office. Joblessness is no longer just for philosophy majors. Useful people are starting to feel the pinch.
Sideshow Bob: Your guilty consciences may make you vote Democratic, but secretly you all yearn for a Republican president to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king!
Homer: Now son, on your first day of school, I’d like to pass along the words of advice my father gave me. [Thinks of Grandpa’s advice]
Young Grandpa: Homer, you’re as dumb as a mule and twice as ugly. If a strange man offers you a ride, I say take it!
Homer: Lousy traumatic childhood.
Marge: Well, did you call one of your friends?
Lisa: Hah! These are my only friends [Holds up books]: grown up nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he’s kissed more boys than I ever will.
Marge: Girls, Lisa. Boys kiss girls.
Rev. Lovejoy: [preaching against the Movementarians] This so called “new religion” is nothing more than a bunch of weird rituals designed to take away the money of fools. Now, let’s say the Lord’s Prayer 40 times, but first let’s pass the collection plate.
Skinner: And, for the first time ever, our computer lab actually has a computer in it.
[Ralph is sitting at their newly installed computer]
Ralph: Hi, Lisa! Hi, Super Nintendo Chalmers! [He types “cat,” which prompts a “meow” sound from the computer] I’m learn-ding.
Lisa: Do we have any food that wasn’t brutally slaughtered?
Homer: Well I think the veal died of loneliness.
[There is a fire in Principal Skinner’s kitchen]
Superintendant Chalmers: Good Lord, what is happening in there?
Principal Skinner: The Aurora Borealis?
Superintendant Chalmers: The Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country? Localized entirely within your kitchen?
Principal Skinner: Yes.
Superintendant Chalmers: May I see it?
Principal Skinner: No.
Homer: You’ll have to speak up, I’m wearing a towel.
Homer: I have three kids and no money. Why can’t I have no kids and three money?
Homer: Alcohol, the cause of, and the solution to, all of life’s problems.
Arguably no other animal on earth has been as important to humans as the wolf. They were gods in the Norse mythologies and nursed Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. Most importantly, the wolf was the first animal to ever be domesticated by man, a process still shrouded in mystery that took place well over 10,000 years ago. They have been our dearest friends and direst enemies, and yet there is still so much we don’t know about them.
Fact: Black wolves don’t occur naturally.
A 2008 study at Stanford University found that the mutation responsible for black fur occurs only in dogs, so black wolves are the result of gray wolves breeding back with domestic canines. The mutation is a dominant trait, like dark hair in humans, and is passed down to the majority of offspring. It is not entirely clear what benefit black fur has for the animals; they do not seem to be more successful hunters, but do show a marked improvement in immunity to certain infections. Black wolves are far more common in North America than they are in the rest of the world.
Fact: A large percentage of coyotes are actually wolf hybrids.
In areas where wolves have been largely eliminated, coyotes have thrived. Over the last few years, large populations have moved east, into suburban areas and even major cities like New York and Chicago. Genetic testing on 100 coyotes caught in Maine revealed that 22 had some wolf ancestry. Coywolves are generally bigger than regular coyotes, but smaller than wolves, and are said to be extremely cunning. They exhibit a fearlessness of human civilization as seen in coyotes, but seem to maintain the wolf’s pack hunting instinct and high level of aggression.
Fact: Cannibalism is common amongst wolves.
Wolves are extremely opportunistic carnivores, and they will not miss a chance at a meal. Living in some of the most unforgiving terrain on the planet, they are sometimes forced to eat sick or injured members of the pack, and any wolf that has died is generally fair game. Wolves caught in snare traps must be very quickly attended to by hunters or they will be torn apart by other wolves. When two packs come into contact, very often they will engage in a fatal battle, with the alpha males most often being killed. Sometimes they are even eaten by their own offspring.
Fact: The heaviest wolves can approach 200lbs.
Wolves increase exponentially in size the further they are from the equator. Wolves of the tropics are often no larger than medium sized dogs, but those of the far north (Alaska, Canada, and Russia) can be in excess of 120lbs. The largest wolf ever killed in North America was taken in Alaska in 1939 and tipped the scales at 175lbs. In the former Ukraine SSR, a still more massive wolf was killed that weighed 190lbs. There are unsubstantiated reports of 200lb specimens, presumably alpha males in areas that boast a steady food supply.
Fact: Rabid wolves are extremely dangerous.
Although wolves are not a major vector of rabies, they can catch it from other species such as raccoons and fox. Unlike some animals, which display lethargy and disorientation, wolves fly almost immediately into a rage when they contract the disease. A significant number of attacks on humans are tied directly to rabies. Such incidents have dropped off precipitously over the years, but a few still occur every year. Although there are obviously treatments available for people bitten by rabid animals, the wolf’s propensity is to bite near the head and neck, and oftentimes the virus reaches the brain before medical help can be sought.
Fact: Wolves in the Americas are less likely to attack humans than elsewhere in the world.
There are very few verifiable records of wolf attacks in the US and Canada, but in Europe and Asia, wolves are far nastier. Historical accounts indicate over 3,000 people killed in France between 1580-1830. In the Middle Ages throughout Europe, special structures were built along highways for travelers to take refuge from roving packs. The wolves of India and Russia are also particularly well known to claim human victims. During World War I, soldiers from the Allied and Central Forces were occasionally forced to join forces fighting off starving wolves attracted by the scent of blood on the battlefield.
Fact: Wolves find dogs delicious.
Although they are closely related (practically the same species) and can readily interbreed, many wolves consider dogs prey items. In a fight, the even large dogs are generally outmatched, as wolves of equal size have larger teeth and a more devastating bite. In Russia, where stray dogs have become a serious problem since the fall of the Soviet empire, they have become a staple in the diet of wolves. Often, a single wolf will solicit a dog to follow, and lead it into an ambush by the remainder of the pack. Only the largest and fiercest livestock guardians such as Caucasian Shepherds generally have a chance defending themselves
Fact: The black plague put humans on the menu.
The Black Plague, which devastated Europe in the Middle Ages, may explain much of the strained dynamic between wolves and humans. With corpses stacking up way faster than they could be buried or burned, it was only natural that wolves would gather at the edges of cities to feast on the dead. In doing so, whole generations developed a taste for human flesh and likely began viewing us as prey items. No doubt horrified, the highly superstitious people began spinning tales, contributing to already prevalent beliefs of werewolves, vampires, and ghouls.
Fact: Smallpox did too.
Smallpox brought to the Americas by European settlers had a devastating effect on the natives. Having had no contact with the disease in the past, their immune systems were defenseless, and of those who contracted it, 80 to 90 percent died. Swedish naturalist Peter Kalm, sent to America in 1748, records that in the period preceding the Revolutionary War smallpox was at a particularly devastating point along the east coast. Sensing an easy meal, wolves invaded the Indian villages, devouring the bodies and helpless sick. Although many Native Americans revered wolves, they also exhibited a healthy fear, especially in wooded areas, where one could encounter them unexpectedly and at close range.
Fact: Wolves eat their prey alive.
As reported above, wolves will eat nearly anything to stay alive, but their preferred meal is large ungulates (such as deer, moose, and elk). Unlike bears or big cats, wolves do not have an anatomical weapon capable of quickly dispatching such large animals. They kill by attrition, the entire pack swarming and slashing at the haunches and perineum, ripping away at the legs and the gut, until their victim collapses from exhaustion. They begin eating immediately, even though the prey is often still alive for quite some time.
Throughout the history of cinema, actors and thespians alike have had to portray multiple personalities in order to fit into specific roles. However, as films become (arguably) more “one-sided,” Most actors only need to fit one role to fit several. There are some actors and actresses that portray multiple roles very well. The following is my interpretation of who fits this description the best. Sadly, it is too hard to pick out which of these actors are more deserving than others, so this list may or may not be in any specific order.
Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the many “method actors” involved with this list. Method acting is the act in which someone researches and develops a character around its real life counterparts. This is evident in Leo’s role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape where, at only the age of 19, he describes visiting a home for mentally challenged teens to investigate the mannerisms and behaviors of said teens. He has played in a variety of roles the range from action-oriented, to drama and portrayed J. Edgar Hoover in the latest Clint Eastwood-directed film.
Although known mostly for his roles in The Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland, Johnny Depp has definitely earned the title of being a good actor. With several roles under his name, you can rely on Johnny Depp to portray a good hero, villain, or historical figure. The biggest accomplishment is his astounding work in both animation and live-action; seeing as portraying a physical character is a bit easier than portraying an imagined one.
Matt Damon is an actor that can accomplish a representation of an average every-day guy as in Good Will hunting, just to proceed by representing an average international spy/assassin the next. Joking aside, Matt Damon is also known as a method actor, and this is evident through a previously unexplained factor in method acting – physical representation. For the film The Informant, Matt Damon prepared to play character Mark Whitacre by purposefully gaining weight on a diet of hamburgers, pizza, and dark beer – a diet which he described as being “really, really, really fun.”
If there is one thing Casey Affleck is known for, it’s being the younger sibling of Ben Affleck. However, his acting is also superb, and while he hasn’t had as many titles as Ben, Casey Affleck makes up for that in content. Casey has done serious major roles in movies like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, to comedic roles (American Pie), and even crime and thriller movies such as the Ocean’s Eleven films.
“Marky” Mark Wahlberg hasn’t had a superb career per se, which can be seen with movies like The Truth about Charlie, but then there were instances like Fear, in which he genuinely scared audiences, and his buddy cop acting with co-star Will Ferrell in The Other Guys was surprisingly well-done. His best work was arguably in The Departed, but with one of the most effective casts in cinema, you’d imagine being a supporting actor would be less important.
Now, this is a real turning point in the list seeing as Edward Norton is a horrifyingly good actor in every role he’s worked with. Now the name, or more likely the face, will conjure up images of The Hulk in popular culture terms. However, do many people still remember his role as the determined investigator from Red Dragon or what about his recently overlooked role in the film Stone, where you could genuinely think he was a philosophical criminal?
Tom Cruise has managed to not only capture the imagination of intelligent adventure buffs with the Mission Impossible films, but he played roles that questioned life itself in movies like Vanilla Sky and Magnolia alongside another member of the list. Surprisingly, Tom embodies his characters to quite an impressive extent, yet he is not a method actor. It is beyond me to comprehend how he accomplishes this so well. Sadly, we can’t see much of a career from Tom Cruise based on his being generalized as crazy after a few incidents, the most famous being his appearance on Oprah.
Joaquin Phoenix was never a very big actor, he didn’t make it into every headline or into celebrity gossip, but when he would star in a film, whether it was through a main or secondary role, he never failed to impress. Then, in a now infamous David Letterman appearance, he announced his retirement from acting and his involvement with rapping. He quickly became a joke in both his old and new profession, and everyone assumed their perception was true. However, when he announced his return to acting in February 2021, it was coupled with an announcement for his and Casey Affleck’s documentary collaboration “I’m Still Here” in which, his true motive behind retirement were found to be one elaborate acted-out ploy.
Christian Bale is probably the most well-known actor in current cinema. This is due to his roles in the recent Christopher Nolan-directed Batman films. However, his reach extends further than that, as each one of his roles have surpassed expectations and in some cases, have defied logical reasoning. When Christian Bale had done American Psycho, his representation of a seemingly subtle-minded serial killer had a sense of genuine terror to it, and his no-holds-barred performance just added to that feeling. Most impressively was when he lost around 60 pounds to play his role of a meth-addicted machinist, he even wanted to drop more weight but was advised not to by the filmmakers in order to preserve his health. This was all done on a diet of one can of tuna and one apple per day, and to add to the impressiveness, he regained it all in muscle for Batman Begins.
Out of every actor on this list, the most likely name to stand out as unfamiliar would be this one, in this day and age, John mostly works as a sidekick-type character with Will Ferrell and other comedies. Now, most people know John as “that guy from Talladega Nights or Step Brothers.” Actually, that in itself is nothing bad, not at all; what makes it so impressive is that John C. Reilly wasn’t always portrayed in this way. In movies like Hard Eight and Magnolia, John C. Reilly proved his acting didn’t only fit with comedy films, but also in dramatic roles, roles that require pristine memorization and character self-development. Bearing this in mind, John has not lost his serious acting ways. He recently portrayed a main character in the film We Need to Talk about Kevin based on the wildly popular book of the same name, and then the comedic drama film Carnage.
Horror is an odd genre of film. It’s a staple of cinema, but at the same time, it’s arguably the stalest and most worn-out genre. Think back to the last great horror film that was full of surprises, genuine tension, and actual scares. Not many come to mind. Instead, what’s grown popular is the lampooning of horror. Noticing this, I’ve listed the ten best spoofs (old and new) of the horror genre. I should say, though, that I’m a huge horror fan. I may have some negative things to say in this article, but that’s only because I wish the best for one of my favorite genres. Enjoy.
The first actual, full-on spoof of the stale genre was 1981’s Student Bodies. A very strange film, it centers around ‘The Breather’ (called so because of his heavy breathing), a serial killer targeting students over the phone. While spoofing the various cliches and tropes found in Friday the 13th, Prom Night and Halloween, the film also delivered several very strange but original moments, including an infamous janitor named Stick and a body count meter in the bottom corner. Ending with several twists stacked onto each other, the film is beloved as a cult hit and ushered in the age of ‘self-realization,’ with those horror franchises named before accepting their goofiness and ham, briefly giving them a shot to the heart.
Much like Student Bodies, 2000’s Scary Movie was a response to the stagnate horror genre, taking to town many films, the most prominent being Scream and I know What You Did Last Summer, with many potshots also had at various horror films like The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project. Despite being released almost 20 years later than Student Bodies, a lot of the things it parodies (slutty cheerleaders, ignorant locals, the hackneyed twist ending) were true in the ’70s and ’80s, further showing just how predictable the genre can be. The film is mainly a take on Scream (which was actually satire too), with a parody of the killer from that film, Ghostface, terrorizing a small town and its youth. It also launched it’s own franchise, with a fifth installment coming some time in 2021.
While not as obvious a spoof as the last two films, James Gunn’s Slither is still satire, albeit light, as it’s also a tribute. What it’s both mocking and celebrating are the gory, splatstick B-movies of the ’80s, like Class of Nuke ‘Em High and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Films like those inspired Gunn to work in Hollywood, and he pays them respect while also tongue-in-cheek making fun of the small, backwoods town and cliches, including the town’s many characters. Largely similar to Night of the Creeps, another B-movie, the film’s about a local southern place in the middle of nowhere targeted by aliens who wish to enslave everybody. Filled with over the top gore and a mix of slapstick and legit horror, it’s become one of the newest editions in the cult film pantheon.
This low-budget, independent film is really only satire in its deconstruction of the tropes found in horror films. Largely, it’s more a love-letter to the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises, with the main character, Leslie Vernon, being just like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Filmed in the mockumentary style, this 2006 sleeper hit follows Vernon, who by day hires a film crew (much like Man Eats Dog) to explain the various whats and whys of being a psycho, ritualistic murderer, and who by night set ups those very rituals and scenarios, such as picking the virgin, getting her friends to go to the abandoned woods, etc., all so he can brutally murder them. Its tearing down of the stereotypes found in campy, scary movies is both smart and subtle, with a dosage of black humor. A sequel is currently being written.
Mel Brooks, known for many hilarious satires, from the old west in Blazing Saddles to Broadway in The Producers, sets his eyes on the horror icon itself, Frankenstein’s monster, in 1974. It’s a complete reworking of the Frankenstein saga, only done in classic Brook’s fashion, with plenty of slapstick and meta-humor. Some of the humor is subtle (Igor’s hump switching locations), much of it is broad (‘Puttin’ On the Ritz’), but it’s all very funny and very smart, successfully paying tribute to the classic tale and also lampooning its many cliches. Brooks would later try to replicate this formula with Dracula: Dead and Loving It to less success.
Released in 2021, this recent spoof targets the ‘back-woods murderous redneck’ trope, found in many films including Deliverance, The Hills Have Eyes, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Unlike those films though, the main characters in this film are the rednecks, who aren’t murderous at all. Instead, they’re both incredibly nice, warm people but due to a series of misunderstandings and pure bad luck, are mistaken for those very stereotypes by a group of teenagers vacationing in an old cabin in the woods, who begin to attack the poor guys. It’s a complete reworking of the original cliche, and it works brilliantly, giving rednecks a rare, fair credit.
Another take on the Frankenstein tale, this one comes from the legendary comedy pair of Abbot and Costello, who were known for many kooky adventures. Despite the title, this is more of a ‘monster movie’ spoof than a specific Frankenstein spoof, with both Dracula and The Wolfman being included. In the film, the helpless duo end up unleashing Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster unto the world, and along the way come across the Wolfman too. Like their previous films, it’s zany and full of slapstick, but is still both funny and relevant. Like Young Frankenstein later, the many cliches of Frankenstein are poked fun at, only this time, two more monsters get the treatment.
Directed by the master of horror himself, Wes Craven, Scream manages to be both a complete deconstruction of slasher films and at the same, a great horror movie. Instead of being goofy and silly like other parodies before it, it uses those tropes for it’s advantage, with the murderer of the film, Ghostface, terrorizing a group of students using the various rules of horror movies, like not having sex and not doing drugs. The film openly acknowledges the tropes associated with this type of film, which makes the film stronger and unique. Even the twist ending is fresh. Smart, humorous, and edgy, it was followed by three sequels.
Zombies, a staple of horror since the very beginning, had managed to get through the years without a lot of mockery or grief. That changed in 2004 though, with Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, a hilarious rundown of zombie cliches and tropes. It’s centered around the titular Shaun, a workaholic with a fratboy best friend and a failed relationship, who’s thrust into the zombie apocalypse. Filled with as much heart as it has laughs, it’s become one of the most popular zombie films of all time, despite making fun of the entire idea throughout. It’s also part of Edgar Wrights ‘The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy,’ with Hot Fuzz (a parody of action films) and The World’s End (a parody of sci-fi).
The most recent of these films (just released in April, 2021), The Cabin in the Woods is an ambitious, brave take on pretty much everything horror. A group of youths travel to an old, abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere, and what follows is exactly what you would imagine: sex, drugs, and murder. The thing is though, (and this isn’t a spoiler, honest), it’s all being controlled by some organization. From drugging the kids so they become dumber to blocking all the exits, they make the teenagers their puppets. The film only gets weirder and crazier as it goes along though, but every cliche and stereotype and monster all get a turn at being spoofed. It’s violent, funny, sexy, and most of all, original. It’s exactly what the horror genre needed, and hopefully it inspires more creativity.
So often an author is known for only a small portion of their work. Sometimes this is because they have produced a masterpiece that eclipses everything else they have done and sometimes their works are so voluminous that only the most dedicated fan reads them all. I’m sure some of these will be familiar but hopefully some will be new. Here are ten lesser-known works by great authors. If you have any gems by famous authors you think have been overlooked pop them in the comments.
Joyce is famous for being difficult to read – see the listverse entry on the top ten difficult literary works. For those without the patience to wade through all of Joyce’s neologisms you might enjoy this book. ‘The Cat and the Devil’ is a short children’s book written for Joyce’s grandson. It is a classic fable of making a deal with the Devil, but with some Joycean japes. The small town of Beaugency is fed up of having to take a boat across the river because they are unable to pay for a bridge to be built. The Devil, reading about the trouble in the newspaper, comes to call on the Mayor and make a deal. The Devil will build a bridge in the night if he is allowed to keep the first soul to cross the bridge. The Mayor agrees and in the morning a bridge has appeared but no one will cross because on the far bank, the Devil is strolling up and down waiting for his price. As with all diabolical tales fit for children the Devil is tricked out of his part of the bargain; in this case by the mayor, a bucket of water, and the cat from the title. It would not be Joyce without a good joke and in the book it is noted that the Devil speaks very bad French with a very strong Dublin accent.
Now this is a bit of a cheat because this is one poem out of a body of work of over 1800 written by Dickinson. This poem is representative of what awaits people who read further than just the best-known. Only dedicated poetry fans will ever read them all. Everyone knows her most famous poems like ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ and ‘I heard a Fly buzz – when I died.’ It is worth reading more of her poems if you like those because there are so many more amongst her writings that have similar emotion and literary skill.
Death is like the insect
Menacing the tree,
Competent to kill it,
But decoyed may be.
Bait it with the balsam,
Seek it with the saw,
Baffle, if it cost you
Everything you are.
Then, if it have burrowed
Out of reach of skill —
Wring the tree and leave it,
‘Tis the vermin’s will.
The novels of Charles Dickens make great reading but also serve a social purpose. Dickens faced financial hardship in his youth and would never forget the conditions of the poor. When he visited the United States, Dickens could not help but cast his critical eye over what he observed. American Notes was the product of this trip and is a great insight into conditions in the US in the 1840s, but also into Dickens’ mind. He expresses great joy at his rapturous greeting in Boston. He takes great umbrage with the American press who portrayed his attempts to earn money from his novels (copyright law not then being as strict) as a form of British tax imposition. In the US he met many of the great men of the age and was, individually, impressed with them. However he had deep reservations about American society and the trip made him a firm abolitionist. The joy of this book is in Dickens wry observations.
The Canterbury Tales is one of the foundational texts of English literature. Chaucer wrote a number of other poems like ‘The Parliament of Fowles’ and ‘The Legend of Good Women.’ Instead of including those I have chosen Chaucer’s ‘Treatise on the astrolabe.’ This work shows that Chaucer had a wide ranging mind who could write clear prose as well as brilliant poetry. The treatise was written for his son Lowys with the aim of teaching him the working of the astrolabe. Chaucer writes in English ‘for Latyn canst thou hit but small.’ Thanks to Lowys being a poor Latinist we have the first work in English on a scientific instrument. Even if the working of an astronomical instrument is of little interest to you the opening lines Chaucer writes to his beloved son are still touching.
William Golding is most familiar for the novel ‘Lord of the flies’ but considered his second book, “The Inheritors,” to be his best. The Inheritors is a strange work from a Nobel-winning author because it is unusual for something which many consider to be science-fiction to be thought of as literature. “The Inheritors” follows a group of primitive people in their struggle to survive and their encounters with a god-like tribe who can control fire. The tribe the novel follows are Neanderthals and ‘the others’ are the ancestors of us modern humans. Keen observations are made of early man and the early evolution of society. While we are more advanced than our ancient counterparts, this novel asks: has the human condition changed?
Oscar Wilde is known for his wit, his plays, and the tragic end of his life. His sharp observations of the adult world have made him one of the most quotable authors. Wilde was a married man with two children and for his children he wrote a series of stories published as ‘The Happy Prince and other tales.’ “The Selfish Giant” is one of those stories. It is a Christian allegory of love and charity but can be enjoyed as a simple children’s story. In the tale a selfish giant guards his garden and stops children playing in his trees. Without the children, the garden becomes stuck in a winter which will not end. It is only when the giant lets a child in that spring reinvigorates the garden. The full text is available online and is very moving.
Dante’s “Divine Comedy” has influenced western literature ever since it was written. “The Divine Comedy” deals with Dante’s experiences in the afterlife and culminates with the poet being guided through heaven by his beloved Beatrice. However the Divine Comedy leaves the relationship between Dante and Beatrice a mystery. It is in the collection of writings that form “La Vita Nuova” that we come to understand Dante’s love. Dante describes how they met only twice, but he fell in love at first sight. From then he watched her from afar and kept his chaste love even though she married another man. Dante’s love from afar was a well known condition in medieval romances and he used it to inspire his great poetry. Dante recognizes her as “the magnificent woman of my mind.” “La Vita Nuova” is in some ways far easier to read today than “the Divine Comedy.” We do not all have knowledge of Dante’s Florence or heaven and hell, but we have all been in love.
Alfred North Whitehead said “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” This is not too much of an exaggeration. Plato has been well studied ever since he lived. His dialogues are still discussed today. However it is from a series of letters Plato wrote that this work comes. While some of the letters may be spurious most scholars agree that this, the seventh, letter is genuine. Plato is well known for his idea of the Philosopher-King, and this letter describes his attempt to train young Dionysius of Syracuse in philosophy. It turns out to be a disaster from start to finish. Plato, one of the great geniuses of the age, is disappointed in his student and held captive by him. The letter shows that no matter how smart you are trouble will still occur. Plato does not give up on his project of perfecting society despite the setbacks he faced and the lesson for each of us is clear.
Franz Kafka is the author of stories which reflect the impersonality of the modern age and our own struggles against an uncaring society. His works are capable of supporting multiple interpretations though which has given them widespread appeal. Dying relatively young he left a small body of work which has proven hugely influential. His short story ‘A Hunger Artist’ tells the story of a man who exhibits himself in cage as he starves himself. People come to watch the hunger artist not eat. The hunger artist, whose name we never learn, is proud of his achievements in starvation but chafe under the gaze of an uncomprehending audience and unsubtle master. The people grow bored of hunger artists and the main character is ignored by everyone but he continues his fast. A circus worker finds the hunger artist on the point of death and hears the confession of the proud artist. It is tempting to see parallels between the hunger artist and the young writer wasting away from TB, both without an audience.
Machiavelli is so associated with his political treatise “The Prince” that the word Machiavellian has come to mean deceit and cunning. However Machiavelli also wrote learned discourses on the histories of Livy and was a skilled dramatist. “La Mandragola” (The mandrake) is a satirical comedy surrounding the lust of Callimaco to sleep with the beautiful, but married, Lucrezia. As you would expect from a renaissance comedy the plot is intricate and the characters all ripe for mockery. The play features a pompous husband, a cunning accomplice, a willing adulteress, and (shockingly for the time) a money grubbing friar. The play stands alone as a comedy, and has had a number of successful recent revivals, but it is also amusing to see Machiavellian politics played out on a domestic scale. In this play it is the clever that triumph.
Religious topics abound on Listverse and they are frequently the most commented upon. It has been some time since the last one so it seems like the time is ripe for another – and this one is a great one for discussion. Here we present five arguments in favor of the existence of God, and the counterargument for it. Feel free to comment on the veracity (or your opinion of) each but remember to keep calm and argue reasonably. After all, it is our ability to be reasonable (rationality) which separates us from the other animals! Note: These all deal with the Judeo-Christian God.
First formulated by St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, then taken up by Alvin Plantinga. “God exists, provided that it is logically possible for him to exist.”
This argument is quite brazen in its simplicity, requiring not only a belief in God, but a belief in the necessity of God. If you believe he is necessary, then you must believe he exists.
Criticism typically deals with the Ontological Argument committing a “bare assertion fallacy,” which means it asserts qualities inherent solely to an unproven statement, without any support for those qualities. It is also criticized as a circular argument, revolving from a premise to a conclusion which relies on the premise, which relies on the conclusion.
This argument is very old, and states that God must exist for the following reason: 1. An aspect of morality is observed. 2. Belief in God is a better explanation for this morality than any alternative. 3. Belief in God is thus preferable to disbelief in God.
This argument is technically valid, provided that the three constituents are accepted, and most critics refuse to accept the first. Morality, they argue, is not universal. Murder was perfectly fine for the soldiers of the First Crusade, who slaughtered every man, woman, and child in Jerusalem in 1099. Thomas Hobbes argued that morality is based on the society around it, and is thus not objective.
This is one of St. Thomas Aquinas’s “Five Proofs of God,” and still causes debate among the two sides. Here is Aquinas’s statement of it, which I have translated from Latin, for a sense of thoroughness:
The fourth proof originates from the degrees discovered in things. For there is discovered greater and lesser degrees of goodness, truth, nobility, and others. But “more” or “less” are terms spoken concerning various things that approach in diverse manners toward something that is the “greatest,” just as in the case of “hotter” approaching nearer the “greatest” heat. There exists, therefore, something “truest,” and “best,” and “noblest,” which, in consequence, is the “greatest” being. For those things which are the greatest truths are the greatest beings, as is stated in Metaphysics Bk. II. 2. Furthermore, that which is the greatest in its way, is, in another way, the cause of all things belonging to it; thus fire, which is the greatest heat, is the cause of all heat, as is said in the same book (cf. Plato and Aristotle). Therefore, there exists something that is the cause of the existence of all things, and of goodness, and of every perfection whatever. We call this “God.”
The most prevalent criticism of this argument considers that we do not have to believe in an object of a greater degree in order to believe in an object of a lesser degree. Richard Dawkins, the most famous, or infamous, Atheist around these days, argues that just because we come across a “smelly” object, does not require that we believe that we believe in a “preeminently peerless stinker,” in his words.
One of my favorites, with very intricate abstraction. C. S. Lewis (who wrote “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”) came up with this. It begins as an argument from design, and then continues into something new. Very basically, it argues that God must exist, because, in Lewis’s words:
“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
It sounds powerful, and the final judgment on it is still out there. But its primary weak point is that, in the strictest sense, it is not a proof of God’s existence because it requires the assumption that human minds can assess the truth or falsehood of a claim, and it requires that human minds can be convinced by argumentation.
But in order to reject the assumption that human minds can assess the truth or falsehood of a claim, a human mind must assume that this claim is true or false, which immediately proves that human minds can assess the truth or falsehood of a claim.
But none of this has anything to do with God’s existence. Thus, the argument is better treated as a disproof of naturalistic materialism. However, given that most Atheists use naturalistic materialism as the foundation of Atheism, is is a very viable argument.
Thomas Aquinas’s most famous proof of God refuses to go away. You’ve probably already heard of it in some form. It was around before Aquinas, at least as early as Plato and Aristotle, and in basic terms, it goes like this:
1. Every finite and contingent being has a cause.
2. Nothing finite and contingent can cause itself.
3. A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
4. Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.
This is especially impressive in that it was theorized by the Ancient Greeks, at a time when the Universe was not known to have had an origin. Today, we call this “the Big Bang,” and the argument has changed to this form:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The Universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the Universe had a cause.
Sequentially speaking, these three points are true. But the second point requires the Universe to have had a cause, and we still aren’t sure it did. “The Big Bang” is the most prevalent astrophysical theory today, but it has its detractors, most arguing that because the mathematics that leads back to a big bang do not function at the point immediately prior to the big bang, those mathematics were invalid to begin with.
Better than this, however, is the argument that this proof of God commits the logical fallacy called “infinite regression.” If the Universe had a first cause, what caused that first cause? Criticism declares that it is unfair to argue for every thing’s cause, and then argue for the sole exception of a “First Cause,” which did not have a cause.
Disney has produced a number of fantastic and diabolic villains – Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Ursula, Jafar, Scar, Gaston, Pete, Hades, etc. The list goes on. But while there are many popular ones, some villains are often forgotten and are not as publicized as much as others. This list contains ten Disney villains who deserve some more attention and appreciation. Please note this list contains spoilers for the films that most of the villains are from.
The only character on this list to originate from a Disneyland attraction, the Phantom is the villain of Disneyland Paris’ version of the Haunted Mansion, Phantom Manor. A mysterious spirit of malicious intent, the Phantom turned the Ravenswood Manor into his own ghostly retreat, inviting nine hundred and ninety eight others ghosts to live with him. He even hung the fiancé of bribe-to-be Melanie Ravenswood, who wandered into the manor in search of her lover until she died. It is speculated that the Phantom is actually Melanie’s father who returned from the grave to prevent his daughter from getting married and leaving the family home. The Phantom’s most distinct feature is his chilling laugh, performed by Vincent Price, who was meant to narrate the Phantom Manor’s spiel, but it was replaced with a French-narrated one.
Out of all of the Disney villains, Sykes is one you would find in real life. Sykes is a ruthless loan shark and only cares for money. He gave money to Fagin and his band of dogs, but coldly wants his cash back. Granted that is the purpose of a loan shark, but Sykes is pretty much willing to kill Fagin if it means getting his money back. He eventually learns of Oliver and his new owner Jenny, Sykes kidnapping her and holding her for ransom. Oliver, Fagin and the dogs manage to rescue Jenny, but then Sykes goes on a suicidal and frightfully startling rampage to get her back. He ends up killing his own guard dogs, wrecks his car, chases the heroes on electrified subway rails, and eventually meets his doom when he is pulverized by a train. He does not say a word during the climatic chase; his actions alone prove just how crazy and determined he was to get what he wanted.
Pixar’s first film Toy Story did not need an evil sorceress, pirate, sea witch or wicked stepmother to act as the antagonist, but rather a toy-destroying bully named Sid. One of the worst nightmares for a toy, Sid gets a thrill out of blowing up toys and turning those he has into mismatched mutants. Among his victims is a Combat Carl who is blown to smithereens by a stick of dynamite, and Buzz Lightyear is strapped to a miniature rocket. The most disturbing thing is that Sid’s mother does not really seem bothered that her son has got his hands on dynamite and an exploding rocket. Woody rallies the mutant toys to stand up to Sid and remind him what the purpose of a toy is – by terrifying him. Although Woody’s actions could have left Sid mentally scarred, it seemed he came out alright, since he cameos in Toy Story 3 as a garbageman. Who knows what might have happened if Woody had not scared Sid. He might have started harming animals, or even people.
Starting off as another troubled kid thanks to his rejection by his idol Mr. Incredible, Syndrome grew to despise superheroes and became an ingenious supervillain himself. Creating numerous gadgets like a device able to fire zero-point energy and rocket boots, Syndrome used them for evil and murdered a dozen or so superheroes to test out his giant robot, even challenging Mr. Incredible. His ultimate goal was to remove the very meaning of a superhero by pretending to be one at first and then selling his gadgets to the public, so they can become superheroes themselves, to the point that everyone is the same and not “super” anymore. Syndrome is a very twisted villain, more than willing to blow up Mr. Incredible’s family and kidnap his youngest child just to see him suffer. Perhaps if Mr. Incredible has been kinder to Syndrome, he would have turned out all right and become a better person.
One of the leading antagonists on Disney’s Gargoyles, David Xanatos is an eccentric billionaire who moves an ancient Scottish castle to the top of a skyscraper to awaken the slumbering Gargoyles. He really seeks immortality, and is an intelligent genius and a master of making gambles. He is ruthless and amoral, but is smart enough not to make mistakes, considering vengeance pointless and even tries to look on the brighter side of his defeats. Xanatos eventually falls in love, gets married and has a son, who is saved by his nemesis Goliath, causing Xanatos to drop his feud with the Gargoyles, becoming their ally, and allowing them back into their ancestral castle.
Long John Silver has appeared in several of Disney’s adaptations of Treasure Island, but appeared as a cyborg in Treasure Planet, the ambitious sci-fi take on the classic novel. Like other portrayals, Silver is the cook of the ship bound for Treasure Island with the goal of seizing Captain Flint’s treasure. However, this Silver forms a memorable and touching bond with Jim Hawkins, acting as a father figure to him after his distant father abandoned his family. Silver is really more of an anti-hero than a true villain, but he was added to the list for his development as a character, willing to throw his fortune away to save Jim, and was one of the most memorable characters created by Disney during the 2000s.
After Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa, Davy Jones is by far the most iconic character in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Sporting a beard of squirming tentacles, a lobster claw for an arm and walking on a “peg leg” made from a crab’s leg, Jones really leaves a lasting impression in Dead Man’s Chest. Carving his own heart out after being betrayed by his lover Calypso, Davy Jones became pretty much the Grim Reaper of the seas, turning his ship the Flying Dutchman and his crew into fish monsters and shanghaiing sailors into his crew for one hundred years of servitude. All those who defy Davy Jones were killed by his pet, the Kraken. Bill Nighy did a fantastical performance, and it was a surprise to many when it turned out Nighy’s “makeup” was actually computer-generated. Overall, Jones is a fantastic villain, but a tragic one at heart, and he knows how far he has fallen and cannot seek salvation.
Pete’s Dragon, which seems to be a forgotten classic of Disney’s live action/animated films, has a number of memorable characters like the drunken, panicky Lampy and his daughter Nora who sang the lovely “Candle on the Water,” but the best character is Dr. Terminus. A charismatic, colorfully dressed quack doctor, Dr. Terminus and his assistant Hoagy come to the town of Passamaquoddy to give the townsfolk wacky health cures for money, a daunting challenge since they were chased out of town last time. Dr. Terminus is great fun, and his numerous cures are imaginative if not deadly. At first skeptical to the possibility of the dragon Elliot, Dr. Terminus decides to chop up Elliot and sell off his body parts to make amazing cures and become rich. Jim Dale gives a memorable and hilarious performance, not to mention he’s got one of the best entrances and exits of a Disney villain ever.
One of the scariest villains to come from the House of Mouse, I failed to put the Horned King in my Top 10 Terrifying Disney Monsters, so I added him to this list. A demonic skeleton king, the Horned King seeks to resurrect his undead army using the Black Cauldron. He is completely focused on his goal and has no time to banter with his minions or have a villain song. But he does need them because his mere presence makes him an awesome villain. John Hurt gives an eerie performance, and although The Black Cauldron is often criticized, the Horned King is definitively one of the highlights of the film.
This list started with Vincent Price, and it ends with him as well. Professor Ratigan is often left out of the most popular of the Disney villains and he really deserves to be in the inner circle. Based on Professor Moriarty, Ratigan is a magnificent villain. Intelligent, funny, suave and downright bonkers, Ratigan wants to take control of the British monarchy and outwit his arch enemy Basil of Baker Street. It is great fun watching Ratigan, but beneath his charismatic and funny exterior is a mad, raging beast wanting to get out and seeing him pretty much have a full blown meltdown every time he is called a rat is quite unnerving. Eventually when Basil foils his plans, Ratigan finally snaps and reveals his feral self, and seeing him charging his way through Big Ben to murder his nemesis is a truly nightmarish sight to behold. Professor Ratigan truly earns the title of “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind.”
If making music were easy, we would all be famous. It isn’t a cakewalk to create a song that will be admired for generations to come, which is why at times, artists have turned to the past to find lasting pieces of music that can be reworked. Some producers find ways to take a great song and twist it into something entirely new. Other times, there are those blatant samples that immediately beg the question, “Haven’t I heard this before?” Here’s a list of 12 samples that chances are everyone has heard, and if they listened to the original, would immediately recognize. This is a YouTube heavy list so you can hear the originals and samples.
Samples: Daydream in Blue by I-Monster
Lupe Fiasco’s third single off of his first album, Daydreamin’ was not a huge Billboard success, but did go on to win a Grammy. The chorus is taken directly from I-Monster’s Daydream in Blue, and comparing the two feels like listening to the same song. It’s no mystery why this sample led to the song’s success; the melody is extremely catchy, and will easily get stuck in your head. Jill Scott’s vocals on the track are equally beautiful and passionate. Interestingly enough, Daydream in Blue itself samples Daydream by the group Wallace Collection almost as heavily.
Samples: “Fast Cup Stacking, Oh My God!” from Youtube
Call him Dubstep or otherwise, it’s obvious at this point that Skrillex’s popularity goes beyond whatever genre you place him in. This sample is unique in that it’s the only one on this list that came from something other than older music. Instead, this sample is from a popular YouTube clip. While the sampling isn’t extensive throughout the song, it does come at what any Dubstep fan will tell you is the most important part of the track: the drop. And if anyone knows how to drop the bass, it’s Skrillex. The shrieking vocal sample is followed by an over the top heaviness. It would be hard to suspect a YouTube clip could have the same intensity as Skrillex’s ridiculous synths and baselines, but this sample delivers.
Samples: Jack and Diane by John Mellencamp
Anyone who has heard the original Mellencamp tune will know it immediately when listening to Jessica Simpson’s reuse. The extremely catchy mixture of the simple riff and the hand claps during the bridge can get stuck in your head for days, which of course makes it a perfect sample for a dance pop single. While Jack and Diane made it to number 1 on the U.S. charts, Simpson’s rework topped out at number 21. Mellencamp has stated that originally, the claps were only recorded to help keep tempo and weren’t meant to be included in the final song, but he realized the song didn’t work without them. Jessica and her producers would probably agree.
Samples: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk – Cola Bottle Baby by Edwin Birdsong
Many fans of Daft Punk were upset to hear one of Daft Punk’s most famous tracks, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger used as the hook on Kanye West’s single Stronger. This is pretty ironic considering how heavily Daft Punk themselves sampled Cola Bottle Baby for their track. In fact, Daft Punk is known for their heavy use of samples, sometimes to the point of simply taking a hook and adding a heavier dance drum beat (such as the direct use of the Release the Beast hook by Breakwater for Robot Rock). Kanye West is equally known in the Hip Hop world for his own use of samples in production, which is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he would use a hook as catchy as the one sampled from Daft Punk. This is a case of “Sampleception”: a sample within a sample. While Daft Punk used much of Cola Bottle Baby for their sample, Kanye’s sample is of the lyrical portion of Daft Punk’s track, and doesn’t really include any of Edwin Birdsong’s original sound.
Samples: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly
Nas’s single Hip Hop is Dead sampled Iron Butterfly’s track heavily, sporting the opening synthesizer riff, the baseline, and the drums. While they’re spruced up a little to get that strong Hip Hop sound, listening to the original song you can practically hear Nas rapping over it. Both songs hit the charts, but topped out at 30 and 41, respectively. While In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is undoubtedly Iron Butterfly’s most famous song, Nas saw much more success with other tracks. Unlucky for him that his first album, Illmatic, is considered one of the greatest Hip Hop records in history. That’s a hard act to follow, no matter how memorable the sample you use.
Samples: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 35 by Frederic Chopin
Deadmau5 has been outspoken in his dislike for DJs that don’t produce original work, and while he certainly produces his own tracks, it doesn’t stop him from sampling now and again. At least he’s keeping it classy, though, reaching all the way back to 1839 to grab a few piano bars from the legendary composer and pianist Frederic Chopin. This sample is fairly minimal, as it is only the opening few strands of music from this amazing Sonata, but it is notable for the incredible popularity of Deadmau5’s track and the unbelievable pianist it is sampled from.
Samples: Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie
Of course this one made the list. Perhaps best known for Vanilla Ice’s weak defense that he didn’t sample Under Pressure (their track goes dun dun dun du du dun dun; his track goes du du dun du du dun dun), it’s obvious that the same smooth baseline is featured in both songs. While Queen and David Bowie hit number one in the U.K., they topped out at 29 on the U.S. charts. Vanilla Ice, on the other hand, rode that funky bass to number one in both countries. Obviously it takes more than a great baseline to top the charts, and with some…interesting…rhymes and a catchy chorus, Vanilla Ice had a hit.
Samples: You Got What I Need by Freddie Scott
Somewhat of a one-hit wonder, Biz Markie earned huge popularity with the simple and humorous track Just a Friend. A large part of the success of the song has to be credited to the simple piano melody of Freddie Scott’s original tune, along with Biz’s amazingly bad rendition of Scott’s own lyrics in the chorus (with a small twist). Some would say that Biz butchered a classic, while others accept the comedic Hip Hop tale of love as an homage to the lat great Freddie Scott. Whichever point of view you take, Biz’s horribly off-tune chorus will be the life of karaoke bars for years to come.
Samples: Bring It Here by Wild Sugar
The first 10 seconds of the 1981 Wild Sugar track Bring It Here became the basis for one of The Beastie Boys’ best known tracks. If you started both tracks simultaneously, you would have no idea which was which. As a sample, those 10 seconds were perfect: A catchy, repeating groove to rap over as well as a quick hit to switch up the tempo and supply an outro. Wild Sugar never gained too much popularity with Bring it Here, but the sample certainly lives on. While Brass Monkey may not have been as successful as other Beastie tracks on the charts, it had huge radio play and has you whistling the tune in seconds.
Samples: 75, Brazil Street by Nicola Fasano vs. Pat Rich – Street Player by Chicago
Here again, we have a sample within a sample. Given Pitbull’s penchant for sampling latin flavor for his own songs, there’s a good chance he never even knew that Nicola Fasano and Pat Rich had sampled Chicago’s Street Player in the first place. I Know You Want Me samples the up tempo dance beat directly from 75, Brazil Street, but the memorable horn hits are the very first notes played off of the original Chicago track. Pitbull certainly wasted no time capitalizing on Fasano and Rich’s own sampling success, releasing his track less than a year after 75, Brazil Street came out. This trend would continue for Pitbull, with his 2021 track Bon Bon sampling the 2021 track We No Speak Americano by Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP. Even quicker on the draw, his 2021 track Latinos in Paris came right on the heels of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s success with N***az in Paris.
Since their humiliating loss in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, the French have gained a reputation for being continual losers on the field of battle. This view has been especially prevalent among Americans, where it is an article of faith that France was so militarily incompetent that the USA has had to bail them out in two world wars. The French have been mercilessly pilloried in American popular culture, where the term “Cheese-eating surrender monkeys” became particularly popular after French criticism of the invasion of Iraq. But does this actually hold true? Granted, their military record in the 20th century is not an encouraging one. They were on the winning side in World War I, but lost so much blood and treasure in the process it can hardly be called a victory. They were humiliatingly defeated by Germany in a few short weeks in 1940 and spent 4 years under occupation. And they were comprehensively defeated in Indochina by the poorly-armed guerrillas of the Viet Minh during the 1950s. However, the picture is not entirely gloomy. The French may not have won too many wars, but they managed to win a few individual battles along the way. Here are 7 battles the French did win during the 20th century.
Undoubtedly the most significant French victory of the war and one which changed the course of it significantly. Between the 5th and 12th of September 1914, the French (with some British help) stopped the previously invincible Germans in their tracks and saved Paris. In a brilliantly planned counter-offensive, General Joseph Joffre exploited a weakness on the German right flank and pushed his forces between two German armies, casing the German offensive to break down in confusion. It was still a hard-fought battle, at one stage reinforcements for the French were brought from Paris in taxis, a feat which has become a major rallying point for French patriots ever since. However, the Germans came close to being surrounded and had to withdraw, effectively ending their chances of capturing Paris. They changed tactics and set themselves up for a war of attrition which would last for four bloody years. However, there is no doubt that the “Miracle of the Marne” saved France from certain defeat in 1914, and as such has assumed a sacred status in the annals of French military history.
Generally not considered a victory because of the enormously high losses on both sides, the fact is that the German offensive around Verdun failed to secure its twin objectives of capturing the city and inflicting crippling losses on the French. The city remained in French hands and French losses were not much higher than the Germans’ own. Along the way the French soldiers showed tremendous character and resolve to hold on even after the Germans seized the key forts of Vaux and Douaumont and inflict huge punishment on the German forces who paid heavily in blood for each metro they advanced. The battle comes to seem much more like a French victory when one considers the two little-known offensives which the French conducted in late 1916 and 1917, successfully recapturing virtually all the German gains and capturing some 11,000 German prisoners. Verdun has been described as France’s Stalingrad, which effectively captures both the horrendous slaughter and the refusal of the defenders to yield.
After the fall of France in 1940, from exile in Britain, Charles de Gaulle rallied remaining French forces from around the world to form the Free French Forces. The first significant campaign for the Free French came in North Africa, where they fought first against their own Vichy countrymen, then against the Germans and Italians. In May 1942, the Free French came up against the might of Rommel’s Afrika Corp at Bir Hakeim, an oasis in the Libyan desert. Defending an old Turkish fort, the 1st Free French Division under General Marie Pierre Koenig held off the much larger German and Italian force for 14 days, before successfully evacuating under cover of darkness on 11 June. The action was significant because it delayed Rommel long enough for the British to re-group their forces. Although Rommel succeeded in capturing Tobruk 10 days later, Bit Hakeim and other delaying actions were successful in giving the British the vital time needed to pull together the forces which eventually defeated Rommel at El Alamein in July. The Bir Hakeim action was trumpeted by De Gaulle as an indication that France was not out of the war and was still a force to be reckoned with by the Germans. Hitler was infuriated by the French actions and ordered Rommel to execute all Free French prisoners. Rommel ignored the order and the Afrika Corps continued to treat Free French prisoners as legitimate POWs, which reinforced the Free French assertion that they were a genuine army and not simply a group of partisans.
On 19th August 1944, after more than 4 years of occupation, the French Resistance rose up to throw off their German oppressors. Anticipating the imminent arrival of the Allies, the Forces françaises de l’intérieur (FFI) launched a street by street campaign against the Wehrmacht, Numbering 20000, with only a few being armed, they nevertheless barricaded streets, dug trenches, attacked isolated German outposts and bombed German vehicles. The Germans fought back, and an infuriated Hitler ordered Paris destroyed. However, the closeness of the approaching Allies was playing on the Germans’ minds, and they were unable to co-ordinate a concerted campaign against the rebels. Some 800 Resistance fighters were killed, another 1600 wounded, but the survivors were able to hang on until the French 2nd Armoured Division swept through the remaining German defences and entered the city to a delirious reception on 24 August. The Germans surrendered the next day, opting not to carry out Hitler’s destruction order. It was perhaps the only significant French victory of the Second World War, but it is nevertheless one that the French have proudly celebrated ever since.
Although the French campaign to defeat the Viet Minh in Indochina is generally regarded as a great military disaster, the French military did win some significant encounters along the way. Much like the Americans a decade later, the French usually proved too strong when the Viet Minh unwisely chose to fight in open battle rather than adhering to guerrilla tactics. Such a battle occurred in January 1951, when General Giap decided to make a major strike at Hanoi and chose to attack the French at Vinh Yen, 65 kilometers northwest of the city. The French had just brought in one of their most respected generals, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, to bolster their flagging campaign, and he saw an immediate chance to strike a blow against the Viet Minh. He was flown in on 14 January to personally take charge of the Vinh Yen garrison. He ordered successful counterattacks against the Viet Minh, driving them back from territory that they had captured and then ordered the largest napalm attack of the war. Devastated, the Viet Minh tried to fight back, but by 17 January, Giap admitted defeat and the remaining Viet Minh fled for their mountain strongholds. Ultimately the Viet Minh learnt they could not defeat the French in open battle and returned to their successful guerrilla tactics, until the great disaster of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 ended the French campaign
Due to their commitments in Indochina, the French sent only one battalion to fight with the UN in Korea. However, the specially-formed battalion of active and reserve soldiers proved to be one of the better units in the UN force and won praise, especially from the Americans, for their heroics in several battles, particularly in the month-long battle of Heartbreak Ridge in September and October of 1951. In conjunction with an American regiment, the 23rd, the French were ordered to make a near suicidal attack up a heavily defended ridge. They reached the top after sustaining heavy casualties, but then had to endure repeated counter-attacks by the North Koreans. The battle grew larger in scale, drawing in American tank regiments and South Korean soldiers for the Allies, and Chinese troops on the Communist side, but it was the French who finally delivered the coup de grace, capturing the last Communist position on 13 October. The French battalion lost several hundred men, and were awarded a distinguished unit citation, one of 3 they won in the course of the war, from the grateful Americans.
In late 1956, the National Liberation Front (FLN), seeking an end to the French occupation of Algeria, began a series of hit and run attacks against French forces in the capital of Algiers. The French government decided to deploy major elements of the French Army to Algiers to combat the rebels. Under the command of General Jacques Massu, the force was given carte-blanche to end the uprising any way they saw fit. Massu obliged, making use of torture and summary executions in his efforts to terrify the FLN into submission. While this largely didn’t succeed, the well-trained French military did succeed in wiping out most of the FLN strongholds in Algiers, and on September 24, they captured Saadi Yacef, one of the FLN’s key leaders. This effectively ended the Battle of Algiers, but the FLN retreated to the countryside and successfully employed guerrilla tactics until the French succumbed to the increasing unpopularity of the war at home and granted Algeria independence in July 1962.