Does the Wendigo Exist?

Post 894

In America, deeply rooted in the folklore of the indigenous Algonquian tribe, there lies a daemonic spirit, a cannibalistic monster out for human flesh. Its hunger never satisfied, ancient evil hunting those guilty of greed and jealousy. Gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin pulled tightly over its bones, bones pushing at the skin from within. Its complexion the colour of ash, with eyes pushed back deep into their sockets, a gaunt skeleton risen from the grave. Its lips tattered and bloody, an unclean beast with suppurations of the flesh. Oozing a strange and eerie odour, one of decay and decomposition, of corruption and death

Legends say the Wendigo were once human beings, formed whenever someone resorted to cannibalism, even if done in the name of survival. Overcome by evil spirits. Some believe the fearsome creature continues to live inside the human, specifically where the heart once was. The embodiment of excess and gluttony. Some even say the human can still be saved, but most say that death is the only way to free the human screaming inside…

‘What caused us greater concern was the intelligence that met us upon entering the Lake, namely, that the men deputed by our Conductor for the purpose of summoning the Nations to the North Sea… had met their death the previous Winter in a very strange manner,’ the Jesuit Relations reported in 1661. ‘Those poor men… were seized with ailment unknown to us, but not very unusual among the people we were seeking,’ they continued. ‘They are afflicted with neither lunacy, hypochondria, nor frenzy; but have a combination of all these species of disease, which affects their imaginations and causes them a more than canine hunger. This makes them so ravenous for human flesh that they pounce upon women, children, and even upon men… devour[ing] them voraciously, without being able to appease of glut their appetite… as death is the sole remedy among these simple people… they were slain in order to stay the course of their madness.’

In 1878, a Cree man named Swift Runner was 25 miles away from Hudson Bay Company’s supply post when he was overcome with the need to butcher and eat his entire family. He cooked and ate their flesh, some of the mutilated remains of Runner’s wife and five children found later on. He blamed his actions on the Wendigo, suffering the grand delusions and cannibalistic impulses one often finds associated with the beast. He was hanged by the authorities at Fort Saskatchewan in December, 1879.

The Wendigo are believed to roam around the forests where the Algonquians lived, with the disappearance of many forest dwellers over the years blamed on the Wendigo. Between the late 1800s and the early 1920s, many claim to have seen this spirit near a town named Roseau in northern Minnesota. Every time someone reported a sighting, it wasn’t long before a mysterious and unexplained death followed. Sightings, however, soon dwindled, but the fear never did.

In 1907, Zhauwuno-geezhigo-gaubow or Jack Fiddler, an 87-year-old Oji-Cree chief, was arrested and tried, along with his brother, for the murder of a Cree woman. He pleaded guilty to the crime, but his defence confounded the experts. He said he did it because the woman was on the verge of transforming into a Wendigo, possessed by the evil spirit. Her murder was to ‘stop the Wendigo murdering the other members of the tribe.’ Fiddler went on to say it wasn’t the first time he did so, slaying at least 13 other Wendigo during his life.

The authorities were quick to label this as mental illness or superstition, but the incidents kept on coming. More and more accounts of people ‘turning Wendigo’ were reported, with wide scale human flesh eating documented. Fiddler was a man of great reputation in his community, considered to have great powers capable of stopping the Wendigo. Fiddler escaped his captivity during a walk outside. He was found dead later the same day. He had hanged himself.

Tribes have become more and more influenced by the cultures that surround them, and, as such, sightings of the Wendigo have declined over the years. Can such evil be real? Or was it just a story warning against cannibalism? Was it influenced by greater and more notable stories of cryptids from around the world, your Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster? We know the early settlers believed the Wendigo was real. It became engrained in their very cultures. Everything was blamed on this fear, a fear very much real. They saw it as the signal of death, the harbinger of destruction, a one-monster war against the world.

Still there are stories told of the Wendigo in tribes today, and still, people do report sightings. Many believe it still roams the woods and the prairies of North America. A story like many others, around since the dawn of humankind. The very name translates as ‘the evil spirit that devours mankind,’ and, regardless of the true nature of this particular beast, as is the way with many evil spirits, the legend will never die…

So I’ll give this cryptid a 79 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it 54th in the list of 61, with the Pope Lick Monster still bottom and Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.

The Wendigo. A fascinating cryptid indeed.

Ciao :)(:

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Would You Do Anything for Money?

Post 893

Money, money, money, once sang ABBA, in a song really very much ‘of its time.’ If I got me a wealthy man, I wouldn’t have to work at all, I’d fool around and have a ball. I mean, really, ABBA, there’s so much wrong with that sentiment. You’re basically advocating being a trophy wife over being a productive worker bee of the national economy. It’s also a terrible message to give young girls. Find a rich dude and you’ll never have to work again. We don’t need men, amaright, girls! I mean, I’m not a girl, but I agree that the world would be better without us. Hmm, only five billion years to go until men go extinct. Not that long, when you think about it. Also, when ABBA say, ‘I’d fool around,’ is that… in the modern sense? Id est, find a rich man so you don’t have to go to work and then screw around because, hey, who cares? That’s an even worse message to give little girls! It should be different. If I procured a man through gentle and courteous courting, maintaining and respecting both physical and emotional boundaries whilst getting to know one another and grow closer over time, one would take the other’s hand in marriage, we’d find a swell house to settle down in, maybe have a couple of little shredders, we’d share our wealth equally and, many years later, would die in our sleep, blissful in our contentment that we’d spent the best years of our lives together and made each other far happier than we ever could apart… MONEY, MONEY, MONEY! It doesn’t work quite as well, but nothing pisses me off more than a highly illogical pop song…

I think what ABBA were trying to say is that money is rather sweet and that one must pursue any avenue in life to achieve as much monetary wealth as humanly possible. Of course, this is a repugnant and rather antiquated view. I mean, I come from somewhere where money was valued and cherished as a precious commodity and a scarce one, and yes, I’m not entirely sure why, but I was brought up here in Yorkshire believing everything bad in our lives was the fault of Thatcher, so I’ll blame her.

So it is interesting to ask oneself the question. Would you do anything for money? Especially for someone like me. I mean, I recall the day I first handled a £50 note. I think I nearly fainted. They even smell nicer than regular notes. I mean, a fiver, the old, proper ones, smelt like a fag strewn pub in a crusty part of town on a bad weekend. But the fitty? Ah. That smelt like a plate made of bacon full of bacon on a freshly cut lawn. Surrounded by bacon. I imagine it’s because only the toffs handle them and, yes, they may be a scourge on our society, but heck, one can’t deny they smell sure swell…

I decided to trawl the depths of the internet to find out what others have done for money, starting at the lowest amount. The lowest I found was a lad in America who was paid 8p an hour to be his sister’s personal foot rest. Well, that’s what little brothers are for. Then there’s that fella who once ate an entire glue stick for 60p. I’m sure glue sticks cost more than that. And then there was that young boy who once swallowed 10p for £1. That’s a £1 gain for several weeks of agony. £1.10 if you’re feeling brave. For £3, one little kid in America held his hand on an extremely hot metal slide for five minutes. He managed it and he got his five dollars. Sadly, he spent most of it on burns cream, but still…

Still in America, one eight-year-old schoolgirl once paid around £7 to a boy she liked if he pretended to be her boyfriend for a school dance. Awww. That’s both utterly tragic and unimaginably funny… Someone else, who in worked in a New York nightclub, one night bet customers he would lick the bottom of their shoes. He made 20 bucks. £17 is not worth that. Unless the shoes are covered in bacon, I’m not interested.

Up a little next, to £23. One guy once snorted a line of sand for that much. Or little, probably. Then there’s £38. That’s how much a little girl was once paid to eat a centipede. Oh, I’ve put worse things in my mouth. Elsewhere, someone else paid £38 to some fella to smash up his best friend’s boyfriend’s car, after he cheated on her. Oh, come on. That’s terrible. Do you own dirty work, love…

Another fella once got £54 for being punched in the face. On a nicer note, Person A once paid Person B £77 to study in Person A’s room. That’s it. Person A thought Person B’s intelligence would rub off on him. Or her. Probably a ‘him’. Someone else once got £77 to let a ‘friend’ zap him with a Taser until the battery died. Only took eight zaps. I’d be disappointed with that. Eight zaps isn’t that much. What if you’re a policeman and you have to take down nine criminals? Do they carry extra battery packs? Hmm…

One freshman once made a cool £232 posing naked to help pay college bills. Ah, not too bad. Except he got an erection after five minutes… “Teacher! I need more paper!” Then there was that one guy who was paid a staggering £333 by some random dude for pictures of his feet. Hmm… I mean, it’s not that bad, in theory, but it does concern me what he’d be doing with the pictures. Turning them into pieces of modern art? God no. Hanging them up in his basement as part of some satanic ritualistic cult? Sure, why not…

One woman once got paid a huge £658 to star in the 2003 Gary Busey classic, Portrait of a Vampire. Nope, me neither. Not too bad, right? But her role lasted all of 20 seconds. Her character was a hooker shot in the head by vampires, spending most of the scene on the floor with fake blood dripping in her ear. Still, could be worse. She could’ve been in a scene with Gary Busey…

Some people, however, do much, much worse things for some money. Belle Gunnes earned a cool £193,000 from a one woman murdering spree. She kept burning to the ground properties she owned to collect the insurance money, and she killed two husbands for the insurance money (including one who died when a giant sausage grinding machine ‘accidentally’ fell on him). After the second husband died, she started calling for suitors from her homeland, Norway, to fly to America to ‘keep her company.’ 12 people she killed, and she collected the insurance money. Six dollars a victim. Don’t worry, this didn’t happen yesterday. Maybe the day before.

Still, could be worse. In the 1950s and 1960s, two thirds of all loss-of-limb accident claims in America came from Florida. Yes, the residents of Florida were committing self-mutilation for monetary profit, deliberately maiming themselves to claim insurance policies they’d taken out on their limbs. One man sawed off his left hand at work. Another shot his own foot off. Admittedly, no one was ever found guilty of fraud, but one farmer did take out policies with 38 different insurance companies before his tractor ‘accidentally’ ran over his foot, severing said foot. His total profit? One million dollars. Holy shit.

Still, some people dive to even deeper depths of depravity for money. Let me take you back to 1942. Conman Dr. Marcel Petitot set up a medical practice in Paris, France. He spent most of his time selling addictive narcotics and carrying out the occasional illegal abortion. As if this scumbag doesn’t already sound like the biggest arsehole imaginable, then came the concentration camps. Yes, he actually offered to help Jews escape the country for around 25,000 Francs per person. Except he never did. He killed every one of them and pocketed the cash. He was found guilty of his crimes and was beheaded, but not before he made a shit load of cash. Just how much? £26,757,114. £26 million! In 1942! Just goes to show that people will do some very dark things for money. But, then again, they do say it’s the root of all evil for a reason…

Nobody has ever dared me to do anything for money because they know I’m so fun I wouldn’t bother. One’s body is a temple, but, that said, if mine is, it aint a very good one. Money should be hard earned, not bought for cheap thrills. Unless you’re playing Monopoly, of course. All I would do for money is something perfectly legal and legitimate. You won’t find me stuffing my mouth full of insects. Or my nose full of sand. Or playing a dead hooker. I prefer getting to the end of life with my dignity intact, thank you very much.

Now, it’s arguable I lost it some time ago, but not through degrading myself, more through a natural process I like to call, fate repeatedly screwing me over, but still…

Ciao :)(:

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Would You Visit Earth-178?

Post 892

At the centre of the beating heart of the world of DC Comics is the multiverse, and trying to figure it out is about as easy as trying to figure out how dog food can have a new and improved taste if the only person who would be able to tell us that are humans. Not a job I’d want, if I’m being honest. Imagine the Earth is a blue marble. Now imagine you have lots of green marbles. Now scatter those marbles across and around the blue marble. That’s the multiverse. Lots of Earths in lots of fictional universes, often interacting with one another and affecting one another in a way that makes one’s brain turn to mush. Some of them don’t even have names, in which case, I’ll step in and give them names, like Earth-Kirk. Anywho, today we’re taking a trip to Earth-178. And this was an interesting world indeed. One minute, there was Superman, the world’s greatest and mightiest hero. The next, it all went wrong for poor old Supes. He lost his powers and the world lost its super man. But this wasn’t the end for our humble hero. Oh, no. He got out the Spandex, made himself a gnarly new suit and became the vigilante, Nova. Yes, he too wore his underwear on the outside…

Superman was having a relatively ordinary day, or as relatively ordinary as days come when you’re Superman. He was on an intergalactic mission when, without warning, he was dosed with a strange chemical. He didn’t feel right. Like when you’re on public transport and, to get off, you have to hold on to a bar that you’ve just witnessed some jackass hold on to after sneezing right into his hand. I mean, you’re not 100% sure you’ve caught the bug, but for the rest of the week, every little sneeze sends a shot of panic racing through your body. “Oh God, this is it! I’ve got the bug! I’m gonna die!” Yet you’re always fine after a couple minutes. Superman wasn’t so lucky.

Upon arriving back on Earth-178, he had lost his powers. Oh, dear. He did what any self respecting superhero does and immediately called Batman for help. I mean, you would, wouldn’t you? If you had Batman on speed dial, you’d call him for everything. Car broken down. Cat in tree. Loins going untended. Ahem. He needed Batman, and Robin, to help him deal with his newfound powerless life. Just how was he going to cope?

But Superman wasn’t coping well at all. Every day he was itching to get back in the saddle, greatly annoyed by Batman becoming the new and bestest superhero around. Supes became restless. Greatly so. He wanted his own crime fighting crusade, not just to rival Batman’s crusade, but to rival his own, in his former life as Superman. Inspired by the Dynamic Duo and the Green Arrow, Superman adopted the secret identity Nova, an ordinary human hero who used his ‘special cape’ to fight crime, and fight it hard.

“Superman! You’ve lost your powers! I guarantee if you begin a new crime-fighting career in that costume, you’ll be clobbered!” Batman. “You’re jealous, Batman… because you know that I can make it as an ordinary man… the way you and Green Arrow did!” Superman.

The Nova’s first encounter was with Batman and Robin, but Batman was too much for Nova. Initially reluctant to let Nova keep at it, Batman soon realised that, in fact, Nova’s intentions were entirely altruistic. He only wanted to help. So Batman, and the other one, let Nova carry on his own personal crusade. It didn’t go… entirely to plan, must be said. During what he thought was just another day saving folk, Nova encountered a vicious villain. In his former life, as Superman, he always restrained himself from going too far. He wouldn’t commit a crime or kill anyone. But such force was necessary to beat this particular villain. But Nova, still stuck in his old ways, couldn’t bring himself to hurt the villain, and, as such, it cost him dear.

Lying unconscious on the floor, Nova was found and taken to the secret hideout of a supervillain, the notorious criminal known as Mr. Socrates. Ooh, I’m so scared. Oh, golly. But Mr. S was a real danger. He knew all about Nova. He knew Nova used to be Superman and would use that information to blackmail Nova into working for him against Batman and Robin. Nova was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Help the villain to hurt the heroes, or risk losing everything. But we know old Superman, right? We know what Superman would do. It’s obvious. He helped Mr. Socrates. Wait, was that not what you thought he was gonna do? Ah…

That said, it’s not like Nova had much of a choice. Mr. Socrates put some kind of weird chip in Nova’s neck that enabled him to control Nova. Now a henchman for the dark side, Socrates ordered Nova to fight against his most dangerous enemies. Superman was gone, and in his place, a villain carrying out supreme acts of villainy. As you’d imagine.

“We repeat, a costumed stranger – calling himself Nova – is on a one-man crime rampage in Gotham City! Police have been unable to apprehend him,” News Broadcast. “Great Scott! That’s the name Superman is using!” Batman. “Do you suppose the shock of losing his powers drove Superman off his trolley?” Robin.

Lured to a construction site by Nova, Batman and Robin had no idea the danger they faced. Nova wanted the Dynamic Duo dead, deader than corduroy hot pants. Robin was disposed of rather easily because, let’s face it, he’s Robin. Batman proved to be a bit more a difficult customer for Nova to deal with, leading to an epic battle atop the steel skeleton of a half finished high-rise…

“I’m about to commit my first crime… and you, Batman, are about to be the victim!” Nova.

Thankfully, Batman got out of that particularly hairy situation, as he so often does, capturing Nova and dragging him back to his top secret layer, the Batcave. It wasn’t long before Batman and Robin discovered the thing in Nova’s neck. They tried to remove it, they really did, but Nova regained consciousness and escaped the Batcave in the Batmobile. Yes, Batman really knew how to brand himself and his tech, didn’t he? I’m surprised he didn’t name Robin Batman Jr., but there we are…

Meanwhile, Socrates had managed to track down the signal from Nova’s device and learnt of the secret location of the Batcave. Underneath the Batcave Burgers and Beyond fast food restaurant, one would assume. “Gee willikers Batman, I told you that was a stupid name!” Elsewhere, Batman and Robin had tracked down Nova in the Batcopter (yes, everything he owns has his name on it, although I sincerely hope the Batrabbit isn’t what I think it is). They found Nova in an old and abandoned testing ground for short range missiles. Oh, good. I bet nothing bad could possibly happen there.

Socrates and his henchman found the Batcave, and got in using the Batkey, remembering to wipe their feet on the Batmat. They placed a deadly bomb inside the elevator shaft, not named the Batshaft for very obvious reasons, in order to eliminate the Dynamic Duo. Oh, no! That would be terrible! I can’t imagine a world without Batman. That would be sure awful.

You might think, well, gee, I’m glad the two of them aren’t there. Moments later, the two of them arrive back at the Batcave. They bravely fought off the intruders, all with the help of Nova, who was back at the Batcave eating Batcakes all along. Nova had defeated the controlling electro-waves of the chip in his neck, overcoming the force Socrates was trying to exert on him, all thanks to Jimmy Olsen’s Signal Watch. Socrates tried a most desperate escape, running straight into the elevator, completely forgetting there was a shit huge bomb in that thing. D’oh!

Socrates henchmen were soon rounded up, Socrates was dead, and Nova was no more. He decided to ditch the new identity and his brilliant purple and brilliant green Lycra nightmare suit, as well as his new crusade against the villains, and go back to being plain old Superman, but one without his powers. But he wasn’t a shell of his former self, with the Dynamic Duo deciding to help train this new Superman become a great hero, even without all his radical abilities…

But would I visit Earth-178? Absolutely. This is a world with Superman, so there’s that. But more than that, Superman lost his powers. He wasn’t a super powered being anymore, but an ordinary mortal, just like everyone else. Yet, despite this, Superman decided to keep on fighting crime, even if he couldn’t fly anymore. Even though he couldn’t super cook a chicken with his laser eyes in like, 10 seconds. He was a normal human who realised that you don’t need rad powers to be a hero. That being a hero is inside you. In your heart, in your head, and in your soul. As Heather Small once sang, you’ve got to search for the hero inside yourself. And he did. And he was bloody good at it. Oh yes, I’m quoting M People. That’s a reference for the kids.

It’s inspirational! Imagine travelling to a world where the heroes are heroes not because they could fly but because they decided to stand against injustice. With their fists and, most importantly, their intelligence. But most importantly their fists. It sounds like a really nice place. I think it’s always better if the heroes are just like you. You can’t fly kid, but you can still be a hero…

So yes, I would love a day out on Earth-178, but would you, readers?

Ciao :)(:

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What Would Life Be Like If the Clocks Never Changed?

Post 891

Bloody farmers. That’s what we all say when the clocks change and we lose our precious hour of sleep. Cut to a few months later. Yea! Thank heavens for farmers! More precious, precious sleep! So if the clocks never changed, hey, there’d be less complaining going on. Although, being British, there’s plenty more miserableness to take its place. There is just one tiny problem with all this, though. It’s not true. Nope. Lay off the farmers! More than anyone, when daylight savings was introduced, they opposed it and most still do. Daylight savings was actually the idea of one William Willet, who was a horse rider frustrated by the wasted summer daylight early in the morning. In the early 20th century, he sparked a campaign to put the clocks forward by 20 minutes (seriously) during each week of April and back again by 20 minutes each week in September. He died in 1915 a complete and utter laughing stock. Germans, on the other hand, were rather taken with his idea and so, in 1916, they became the first country to implement the light saving system. Britain soon followed because we were at war with Germany and couldn’t afford to miss a way of saving fuel and money. And to think, I used to love war…

In the autumn of 1968, the British government ordered the clocks not to be put back, leaving them one hour ahead, keeping this extra hour by putting the clocks forward, as usual, in the spring of 1969. This left Britain darker in the winter mornings but lighter in the winter evenings. They were trying to see what would happen to the country if we did away with this pesky daylight savings nonsense. The results were hardly black and white. Road causalities decreased significantly in the lighter evenings, but the opposite was true of the darker mornings. So, in effect, the two cancelled each other out, meaning that, by messing with daylight savings, all we did was kill and save an equal number of people. Hmm.

Of course, the whole world isn’t British. Erm… anymore. Ahem. Different countries alter their clocks by different rates, and most African and Asian countries don’t bother. America changes its clocks one week after Britain, except Arizona, because they like to be different. Whether to keep or ditch the daylight savings is a huge issue in Australia, where it divides entire communities. I am sad to report one didgeridoo related fatality…

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents found that, if the clocks never changed, 527 deaths and serious injuries would be prevented on the roads. Another study, by the University of Alabama, found that the chance of heart attacks would decrease. It found that the Monday after the clocks go back, the chance of popping one’s clogs via a heart attack decreases by 21%, and increases by 25% after the clocks go forward again. Which suggests it was all a bit too much for that unlucky 4%…

Many believe never changing the clocks would provide a great boost to the economy, cut household energy bills and carbon emissions, plus increase the general health of the population as lighter evenings would give people more time after work to exercise. People would be using less electricity in the winter months because it would be lighter and therefore there’d be less of a need for artificial lighting. The 10:10 Lighter Later campaign found that ditching the clock change would save half a million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, roughly equivalent to 50,000 cars taking a trip around the world. All this translates as a total energy saving, in the UK alone, of £485 million a year. Yet another study found that the British economy would receive an extra £3.5 billion a year, by conservative estimates, and as much as £10 billion extra a year, from tourism alone.

The NHS would save £200 million a year if the clocks never changed, and crime would drop by 3%. The extra tourism would generate 80,000 extra jobs, creating a combined salary of £720 million. The United Kingdom, the capital of darkness, would also receive a boost, getting an extra 235 hours of daylight each year. This would mean that I’d turn from so-white-I look-like-a-ghost, to off-beige. That’s remarkable, it really is.

It does seem, then, rather strange why we haven’t ditched the daylight savings. It’s because the United Kingdom isn’t united. If we never changed our clocks, where I live, in northeast England, there would be darkness in the winter months until 10 in the morning, and I mean, completely pitch black. Scotland would fare worse, with the Sun not rising there until 11:00, and in the far north, the Sun wouldn’t rise until 12:00. Not setting until the wee hours of the morning. It would be hell. Like living in Norway…

People in that London, who, let’s be honest, only care about themselves, probably also don’t care what’s going on up in Scotland. Okay. If you want to send your little child to school in utter darkness in six feet of snow, with no street lights because, and this is true, many councils in poorer parts of the country have had their budgets slashed by so much they’re not turning on the street lights to save money, go right ahead. I, however, thought it was my duty as a parent to keep my child aliveNot sending her out in the darkness with nothing but a bloody flashlight and a panic whistle! Have you heard a child whistle? NO! It’s because they have tiny useless lungs!

Look, we all hate the clocks changing. It’s a pain in the arse. You tell yourself that you’ll spend a good 30 minutes changing all the clocks and there’s always a bunch you never do, meaning you’re perpetually confused as to what time it is. “My watch says 10, but my phone says… nine. Hmm. Which is right, I wonder…” And you have no clue if your alarm clock will change automatically. And have you actually tried to change the clock in your car, especially the older ones? Oh my God. You try every button and, after an hour, you give up, your car’s headlights flashing, windscreen wipers going mental, the washer stuck on permanently, the tyres have deflated and, for some reason, the boot lid refuses to shut…

You spend most of your morning not knowing which clock you can trust. Your whole life descends into disarray. You’re hungry at odd times and your body either won’t switch off and go to sleep or won’t wake up. Which is fine if you work at McDonalds because, let’s face it, we expect crap service, but if you’re a bus driver… You’ll be ridiculously late or ridiculously early to work. You’ll be angry and snapping at people. You’ll have to endure your workmate’s usual, “Ooh, isn’t it dark?” when you leave work. I KNOW, GARY! SHUT UP! NOBODY LIKES YOU! And you’ll bark and bark about why the clocks should never change, being guilted repeatedly with the line, “Oh, so you don’t care about the farmers. Well, I’m outraged someone would hold such an antiquated opinion in two thousand and seventeen.” I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE BLOODY FARMERS! THE LOT OF ‘EM CAN FUCK OFF! My grandparents were farmers and I STILL DON’T CARE about the farmers! And while we’re at it, it’s TWENTY SEVENTEEN you pretentious prick!

This is what daylight savings has done to us, and look, most of us want it gone. What would the world be like if the clocks never changed? It’s a mixed bag, but heck, I’m willing to give it a try. It’s a choice. Send your kids to school in the dark or make them go in later, keeping them there until nine at night, giving you and the partner some sexy times free of the little horrors that ruined your entire marriage…

What would life be like if the clocks never changed? Pretty good, I think.

Ciao :)(:

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In the Spotlight: 308 – Wisconsin

Post 890

It became the 30th US state on May 29th, 1848. Where you’ll find the Hamburger Hall of Fame, in the city of Seymour. Where you’ll also find the village of Mount Horeb, literally stuffed with wooden hand crafted trolls. They’re everywhere. EVERYWHERE! The most common names include Olivia, Emma and Ava, for women, and Oliver, Henry and Liam, for men. Birthplace of Frank Lloyd Wright, Gene Wilder, George Orson Welles, Heather Graham, Peter Weller, Tom Welling, Tony ‘Monk’ Shalhoub and Władziu Valentino Liberace. And it’s where Barbie was born. The doll. The actual doll. Yes, in her fictional (obviously) biography, Barbie was born Barbara Millicent Roberts in the fictional Wisconsin town of Willows. So now you know. I wonder if anyone is still naming their children ‘Millicent.’ Hmm… Where the First Kindergarten opened in 1856, America’s first. As the name implies. It opened in Watertown, which isn’t a town but a city, for some reason. And it’s where you’ll find places named Embarrass, Chili, Egg Harbor, Luck, Footville, Gotham, Oconomowoc, Ixonia, Random Lake, Trempealeau, Baraboo, Avalanche, Disco and Spread Eagle, famed for its wide open spaces. Tee, he, he… Today, we’re visiting America’s Dairyland, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is a state in north-central America, bordered by Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa, plus Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. It is the 23rd largest state at 65,496 square miles, between Florida and Georgia, with the 20th largest population with 5.7 million people, between Maryland and Colorado. The motto of Wisconsin is ‘Forward.’ Pitiful…

The name of the state comes from the Wisconsin River. French explorer Jacques Marquette was the first European to reach the river, arriving in 1673. He named it Meskousing in the journal he kept, derived from a word given to the river by the indigenous Algonquian group. Subsequent French writers changed the spelling to Ouisconsin, and, not before long, the river became known by this name, as did the surrounding land. When the English showed up, they changed the name to Wisconsin, becoming official in 1845. Its exact meaning isn’t known. We think it refers to the Miami word Meskonsing, meaning ‘it lies red,’ referring to the setting of the Wisconsin River flowing through the reddish sandstone of the Wisconsin Dells. As for why the state is known as America’s Dairyland, that’s because Wisconsin is one of the nation’s leading dairy producers. Cheese and badgers are among their biggest loves. I have no idea why.

The flag of Wisconsin is a blue field containing the state seal. Strap in, this is a long one. The state seal contains the state motto, whilst the badger below is the state animal. You’ll also find a plough, representing agriculture, a pick and shovel, representing mining, an arm-and-hammer, representing manufacturing, and an anchor, representing navigation. The shield is supported by a sailor and a yeoman, thought to be a miner but the drawing isn’t great so it’s hard to tell. These two chaps represent labour on sea and land. At the bottom, we have a cornucopia, representing prosperity and abundance, plus 13 lead ingots, representing mineral wealth and the 13 original states. When Wisconsin was founded, lead and iron mining, plus shipping, were the major industries. However, the flag recently came in at a low 65th out of 72 in a survey of the best Canadian and American provincial, state and territorial flags. They described Wisconsin’s flag as a ‘seal on a bed sheet.’ It’s not a ringing endorsement, is it? There was a proposal once to replace the seal on the flag with a drawing of a giant piece of cheese…

Wisconsinites love the great outdoors, a place of outstanding natural beauty represented in the startling blue skies, the luscious green trees and the brilliant sunshine. There’s no getting away from the fact, however, that this place is cheese mad, producing a quarter of all of America’s cheese and second in milk production. So prominent is the state’s agricultural produce, from corn to cranberries, the state selects a representative known as Alice in Dairyland every year to promote the products of agriculture they send around the world. You see, I don’t want to like a terrible pun, but Alice in Dairyland is just phenomenal. It would’ve also made for a very different movie. Cheese is the only weapon in the war against reality!

There are festivals galore here. The numerous ethnic festivities are most prevalent, celebrating the rich multicultural heritage of Wisconsin. From Summerfest to Oktoberfest, from Fetsa Italiana to Irish Fest, even finding Bastille Days and Arab Fest. There are Wisconsin Highland Games and the African World Festival. Polka Days and Polish Fest. Indian Summer and Bratwurst Days. You’ll even find Syttende Mai, a day celebrating the Norwegian Constitution. For some reason. And, lest we forget, there are Cheese Days in the cities of Monroe and Mequon. Monroe, incidentally, is known as the Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA. I’d love to enjoy some Swiss cheese in the Swiss Cheese Capital on Norwegian Constitution Day in America. It’s the only country where I’d imagine you could…

Art is also well loved here, with the Milwaukee Art Museum a huge draw, partly designed by the greatest architect the world has ever known, one Santiago Calatrava. Several worthy galleries of note include the Edgewood Orchard Gallery and the Potter’s Wheel. You’ll also find music festivals here, from Eaux Claires to the Coors Hodag Country Festival. It would, of course, be remiss of me not to mention the drinking culture. I don’t know how you’d rank their love of booze, cheese and badgers, but it’s the top three in any case.

Sport is also a great love, with American football, baseball and basketball most adored. I know nothing of NFL, but I hear the Green Bay Packers are pretty neat. You’ll find those chaps here. There’s an 81,000 person waiting list for a season ticket, apparently. Blimey. I might need to change ‘neat’ to ‘gnarly.’ You’ll also find the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team here, reflecting the boozy nature of things, whilst the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team try their hardest to get away from state stereotypes. I mean, they do play in cream, but it’s only a tenuous link…

Wisconsinites are a humble and private people, not liking to attract much attention. They are tremendously proud of the place they call home, a liberal state of utter equanimity. Friendly and welcoming indeed. They show huge support here for protecting the environment, a varied and gorgeous landscape, beautiful absolutely. From large open fields to the rolling hills and mountains, to the forests and the beaches, to the lakes and the rivers. This mythical place is, in fact, real and fantastic.

There are sights to see such as the canny and glorious Swiss United Church of Christ in the equally as delightful sweet little village of New Glarus, and the stunning Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians, in the town of Erin. Completed in 1931, this resplendent and breathtaking church sits high and mighty atop a hill, a grand structure of the utmost extraordinary splendour. Then there’s the gorgeous State Capitol building in the capital city, Madison. This x-shaped beaut really does mark the spot, still standing proud as a monument of the city, with other buildings around not allowed to exceed the Capitol’s height. It boasts the largest granite dome in the world, and features rock from Norway, again, with the Norway. This magnificent gem is unusual in its form but remains an irresistible and handsome beacon for the entire city to enjoy.

And then there’s the chimerical wonder of spiritual endeavour, Devil’s Lake, in the South Baraboo Range. 369 acres of awe inspiring majesty, the unwelewable and incicurable curves of the landscape harbouring gentle and ageless water, an exquisite vista of eldritch origin.

But my favourite sight of Wisconsin is the sumptuous Milwaukee Art Museum, and, in particular, the Quadracci Pavilion. The effervescent form of the building in that delicious ocean of green may be from 2001, but surely it’s closer to a city from the far future, a mesmeric glimpse into an enchanting settlement centuries from now. Like nothing else on Earth, this remarkable feat of human craft from the mind of one of the greats, sits so elegantly with its surroundings yet stands out like a striking testament to futurism. This is art of the highest order, a poem of the greatest magnitude, a graceful and bonére gem gleaming brilliant white, eternal.

Wisconsin. The state of cheese, beauty and Disco.

Ciao :)(:

Images (Click on Them to Enlarge)
1) The flag of Wisconsin

2) The Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum

3) Devil’s Lake

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What Are Your Thoughts on Toothbrushes?

Post 889

As I always say, one can milk the heck outta anything and get a good 10 or 20 questions out of it. I mean, toothbrushes could be just the start of a mouth based odyssey. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to read all about the exciting world of mouthwash? Or teeth? Or the tongue? Or… erm, mouth ulcers. Erm, come on, there must be more. I have actually just added those to my question list, so you have that to look forward to, as well as this one. You might wonder what people did before the invention of the toothbrush. People still cleaned their teeth of course, only they found other ways to do it. Many used a cloth. Some even used chalk. Oh, yes. Just imagine the sound of chalk rubbing across your teeth. Ooh, gets ya right in the feels, doesn’t it? Still, could be worse. Pierre Fauchard once recommended washing one’s teeth with fresh urine twice a day. Erm…

We don’t know for sure when humanity first started brushing, but it’s thought it’s a practice almost as old as humanity itself. Markings on teeth from the Stone Age suggest that our ancient ancestors were using makeshift toothpicks fashioned from bone and wood. Whilst it is a nice thought, that of a caveman trying to get the fat from a mammoth steak out from between his teeth, it’s likely they used the toothpicks to fish out seeds instead. They even used mint and ginger to freshen their breath. I must say, this doesn’t chime with what I’ve been told about cavemen. They actually seem rather more like us, what with freshening their breath, probably before a big date with Sandra from ye olde laundromat.

Toothpaste does indeed predate the toothbrush, with early recipes including ground ox hoof, rock salt, honey, ground bone, flowers, eggshells, pepper, ashes and pumice. Oh, and myrrh. You know myrrh. That thing Jesus got for his birthday. Nowadays, most of these things would probably see you sent to a special hospital for some special treatment. Imagine walking in the bathroom to find your sister eating flowers. “DON’T LOOK AT ME, DANIEL!”

The ancient Babylonians made wooden toothbrushes around 3,000 B.C. by roughening and fraying the end of twigs. Look, it’s all they had. About the same time, the Egyptians started doing the same, although I’ve been to Egypt and it didn’t strike me as a particularly ‘treey’ place. The ancient Greeks were also rather fond of trees when it came to oral hygiene. They often masticated mastiche. Lucky boy…

The Chinese were the first to make a natural bristle toothbrush as recently as the 1400s, and if you thought the chalk was cringe inducing, the Chinese used the bristles from the necks of pigs, attached to a handle made of bone or bamboo. That’s just… so cruel. Why not use human bristles? Are… are we supposed to have bristles? No? Ah, crap.

The first recorded use of the word ‘toothbrush’ dates to 1690, when one Anthony Wood wrote in his autobiography that he had ‘bought a toothbrush’ from another man. Does sound a bit shady, if you ask me. Not, “I went to Boots and bought myself a toothbrush.” No, I found some bloke on the street who sold me one for a packet of beans…

However, the British made the first toothbrush vaguely resembling the one we use today. It was the early 1700s and one William Addis came up with the idea for the modern toothbrush, as it was known then, whilst in prison. Yes, a man went to prison and invented the toothbrush. I’m surprised they let him have the materials. “No… no, I promise, I’m not gonna shank anyone. I want to make a brusher of teeth, kindest guard of mine.” “Okay. But I’m gonna watch you every step of the way…” “Ah, bollocks.”

It would be rather amusing if old Addis was in jail for stealing pig bristles, but actually, he ended up in prison after starting a riot. How do you start a riot? Hmm. Addis believed his treatment was as rotten as his teeth were becoming, not overly pleased with the mouldy and damp old rag he was given to clean his teeth. He told the guards time and time again it wasn’t good enough. But they ignored him. So he put tiny holes in the rag and used glue to attach pig bristles a guard gave him. I mean, there’s so much to unpack there. A, I bet he was popular in prison. And B, why did the guard have pig bristles on him? And, actually, C, whereabouts on his person was he hiding them from his fellow officers? “Why… why is Charlie walking funny?”

Addis never patented his invention, but American H.N. Wadsworth did patent his very own toothbrush in 1857, patent number 18,653. Having seen a drawing he did, it’s pretty much the same as what we use today. ‘It keeps the teeth in these places clean and highly polished,’ Wadsworth wrote. ‘It also keeps the gums healthy and vigorous.’ Oh yeah, love me some vigorous gums…

In the late 19th century, rich people of Europe were rather fond of tooth powder. It wasn’t that safe, if I’m being honest. Most of it contained an interesting mix chalk, sugar, china, cuttlefish, charcoal, shells and brick dust. Yes, brick dust. Oh, and whatever borax is. The poorer people, meanwhile, had to make do with either a rough piece of cloth or their own finger. Yes. Imagine walking in on your sister brushing her teeth with her own finger. Not as bad as the flower munching, but still.

Toothpaste didn’t remain a powder for very long. In 1873, Colgate rocked up and started mass production of toothpaste. In jars. Like jam. Oh, Lord. Imagine getting those two mixed up. In case you’re wondering when Colgate introduced its toothpaste tubes, it was around 1890. I’m not sure when they started making whitening toothpaste, but I’m grateful they did, because that’s my toothpaste of choice…

Europeans, always wanting to be a bit different, found the Chinese bristle brushes too harsh and so preferred softer bristle brushes made form horsehair. Mass produced toothbrushes made with horse or boar bristles continued to be imported into England from China right up until the middle of the 20th century. Despite this rapid evolution of the toothbrush, in 1901, the Indexo toothbrush was launched, made of rubber and shaped to fit over the index finger. People just couldn’t get enough of that wonderful finger brush, could they?

Throughout this 1900s, celluloid gradually replaced the bone handles and the bristles were being replaced by synthetic fibres, often nylon. You don’t think of nylon being used to make toothbrushes, but such is exactly what DuPont unleashed on the world in 1938. It wasn’t too long before the Broxodent was invented, in Switzerland, the world’s first electric toothbrush. It was plugged in, don’t you know. Do they have plug sockets in the bathrooms of Switzerland? You see, in the UK, we’re brought up to believe that water and electricity don’t mix…

It was around this time toothpaste makers stopped putting soap in their toothpaste (seriously) and started putting in nice things to prevent specific diseases and treat tooth sensitivity. Fluoride was also introduced to prevent decay. Regardless, tooth brushing didn’t become commonplace until after the Second World War.

The Broxodent heralded the modern age of the toothbrush. Soon, plastic replaced the celluloid. Toothbrush manufacturing became a precision scientific endeavour, with angled heads and a million and one settings. Indeed, we’ve come a long way. Gone are the urine drinking chalk rubbing olden days, replaced by mouthwash and Colgate. Thankfully. Recently, the toothbrush was named the number one invention people cannot live without. And I think that’s a great point. We take our toothbrushes for granted, but where would we be without them? We’d be eating charcoal and inhaling brick dust, that’s where.

Toothbrushes are phenomenal little machines. In our lifetimes, we spend nearly 39 days brushing our teeth. Americans spend $850 million a year on the buggers. Toothbrushes do so much for us and we never stop to thank them. Maybe, just maybe, next time you’re alone in your bathroom, say a little thank you to the mighty little hero, the mighty toothbrush. Again, if someone walked in on you, it wouldn’t quite be as bad as finding you brushing your teeth with your finger, and really nowhere near as bad as finding you eating flowers, but still pretty bad…

I love my toothbrush, and so should you yours, readers!

Ciao :)(:

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What Is ‘Normal’?

Post 888

Normality. Behaviour recognised in contrast to abnormality. I often wonder what plonker invented the word ‘normal.’ I actually have a sneaking suspicion it was somebody abnormal wanting a label to appear normal. Let me introduce you to Adolphe Quetelet, the man who invented ‘normal’. He was born in 1796 in Belgium, the most normal country there is, ironically. In the 1840s, he analysed data published in an Edinburgh medical journal listing the chest circumference of Scottish soldiers. He, for the first time, calculated the average of any human feature. And he asked the question, “What, precisely, does this average actually mean?” Probably that you have far too much time on your hands, but that’s not the point…

Quetelet concluded that each individual soldier’s chest size represented an instance of a naturally occurring error, whereas the average represented the size of a ‘true’ soldier. He went on to claim that every single human is a flawed copy of some kind of cosmic template, one he dubbed, The Average Man. For Quetelet, this was perfection itself. An ideal that nature aspired to, free from error. Quetelet declared, “The greatest men in history were closest to The Average Man of their place and time.”

He would go on to say, “Everything different from The Average Man’s proportions and condition, would constitute deformity and disease… everything found dissimilar, not only as regarded proportion or form, but as exceeding the observed limits, would constitute a monstrosity.” In other words, if we were all the same, we wouldn’t be normal at all. What makes us normal is that we are all completely different. What a lovely thought.

Most of us, throughout our lives, will wonder if we are ‘normal.’ When we ponder if we are what it takes to be normal, we are wondering if the way we think and act is the same as, or similar to, what we determine the majority to be like. We often act based on our own perception of what’s normal. But you can’t often determine what is normal. The example often given is that of a gambling addict. In one culture, it might be deemed a reasonable behaviour, whereas in another, it might not. Normality is in the eye of the beholder.

Surely, normality is a myth. Could such words as ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ be used at all, what with all the confusion and conflicting opinions people have about them? You look at mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, affecting tens of millions of people. We’re led to believe these disorders aren’t normal, but that opinion is influenced by how society views the word ‘normal.’ Why, how do we know that those with schizophrenia aren’t the ‘normal’ ones? Heck, why do we even bother attaching the word ‘normal’ to these disorders anyway? Can’t people just be different to other people?

Take a look at religion. 95% of people in your country might be Christian. But it doesn’t follow that being a Christian is therefore ‘normal’. That’s no different to saying that the 1% who are Hindus are ‘abnormal.’ A recent study in the UK found that 93% of people identify as ‘straight,’ but that doesn’t make them ‘normal,’ does it, or the LGBTQ communities ‘abnormal.’ We’re all different. Normal isn’t what we see or encounter, but instead, completely irrelevant. It means so many different things it can’t possibly exist at all.

Equally, emotions don’t define who we are, either. We’re all sentient beings. Yet we’re always being told that if you feel a certain way, something is wrong with you and you must be ‘fixed.’ People with depression, for instance, like my mum a few years back, only ever said, “I don’t want to feel sad,” never, “I have a mental disorder and that is depression.” The latter makes a different emotion feel equal to being unwanted and categorised. That you’re not normal and now a label. When, hey, look, depression happens. We all suffer from it at some point, whether directly or indirectly.

Normal cannot be what we see the most or the absence of distress, so what is it? It must be something because it exists. People do indeed measure the appropriateness of their actions by how far away said actions are from what people perceive are social norms. But even that’s not good enough. People’s norms are different for everyone. When I was growing up, you had no right to call yourself a teenager if you weren’t out drinking, smoking and screwing every night. But I never did any of those things. Not… not by choice, but that’s not the point…

If you really want to know what normal is, try to recall the faces and the clothes of the people you walked passed this morning on your way to work. Your brain is so accustomed to ‘normal’ it doesn’t really remember the day to day riffraff. The second you see someone missing a limb, for example, you immediately notice the difference. So perhaps that’s what normal is. A delusion generated by antiquated human minds. We only notice the different, but maybe, just maybe, if we all looked a bit harder, we would see that, in reality, difference is everywhere and in everything.

The human race is difference, and that, for me, is what makes the world sparkle…

Ciao :)(:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. You can leave a comment and/or like this post below, or by clicking the title on the top of this post if you are on the ‘Archives’ page. Likes and follows greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Please feel free check out the latest posts from my other blog:

The Indelible Life of Me
New Post Every Saturday
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