Monday, May 13, 2013

Six Mind Blowing Revelations…

…That I Uncovered By Randomly Clicking Wikipedia Links for An Entire Afternoon.


If you’re like me, you’re the kind of person that likes to know things. Not just grand and important shit that most people remain ignorant to (for example, how human fetuses actually develop and how to accurately read into homicide statistics), but also, things that are really trivial and about as important to the world at large as whatever your last pick-up at Steak ‘n’ Shake was (and if you’re wondering? Mine was a kinda’ undercooked fish sandwich.)

Every now and then, however, you stumble across an utterly under-publicized tidbit that’s so magnanimous in its earth-shattering absurdity that you wonder how it’s possible that such factual data never made it into the public spotlight. The information isn’t completely hidden, per se, but to uncover it, you have to do quite a bit of sleuthing…and if you ask me, there is no better means of learning about head-exploding factoids than hitting the “random page” button on Wikipedia over and over.

Oh, Wikipedia. You scourge of academics (even though the website has been proven by experts to be more or less as factually accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica), you promoter of the homosexual, liberal agenda (despite being operated by a hardline Objectivist) and you squanderer of free time (per Clay Shirky, Wikipedia users logged in about 100 million hours on the site in 2009.) Perhaps no other advent in human history can lay claim to spreading around so much heuristic truths all over the place; without the service, there’s no way I’d know shit about guest stars on “The Simpsons,” important players during the Three Kingdoms period and most certainly anything at all about Parramatta Eels players (all of which, by the way, are among the 20 lengthiest entries on the site.)

One day, I decided to log on to Wikipedia, and start shuffling around, clicking on random link after random link. And by doing nothing more than making a few mouse clicks, I stumbled upon the following six, major, MAJOR paradigm-shifting (or reverting?) facts about the world, reality and cosmos you and I somewhat live in…

AIDS? Yeah, we’ve already cured it. For awhile, actually

Earlier this year, a story broke about a young child being, effectively, “cured” of HIV. It was a major, earth-shattering announcement, and a scientific tipping point that may stand as THE precise moment where humankind turned the tide against one of the deadliest diseases in modern history.

Well…sorta. You see, before the news broke that AIDS was kinda’ cured, there was a similar story that -- for reasons that are utterly inexplicable -- was completely swept under the rug in 2011, involving a German dude living in San Francisco that, through an experimental procedure, was fundamentally “cured” of HIV a good two years before the much-publicized “baby cured of AIDS” story hit the headlines.

Now, if you are wondering why one story was plastered all over the place and the other was all but ignored, there are two likely elements at play here. First off, one story involved a baby -- one of the mot revered symbols in white-bread, evangelical America -- and the other, a homosexual, middle-aged European. You tell me which story would play better in the sticks here.

Secondly, the process by which the 2011 “cure” came about is just mildly controversial; good old fashioned, 700 Club viewership base-baitin’ stem cells. Seeing as how a lot of people find the use of embryonic tissue indefensible (even though the dude in question was “cured” of HIV via a stem cell transplant from an adult donor), perhaps you can detect why one story got mainstream ink and the other…well, didn’t.

Associated Fun Facts! Did you know that Swedish people are virtually immune to AIDS thanks to a genetic “defect” stemming from the Bubonic Plague, and that being stung by a bee may actually cure you of HIV? That may just come in handy, especially if that NIH-verified strain of airborne AIDS ever rears its head again

The Arab Spring uprisings were about ACTUAL hunger and not a hunger for democracy.

When half of the Muslim World just up and started a-revolting against their tyrannical regimes back in 2011, the story you heard from the media was pretty much identical, no matter where you went: this was PROOF POSITIVE that the denizens of Arabia had officially gotten sick and tired of bullshit, theocratic governance and were ready for some DEMOCRACY, dabnabbit. There were even some that alleged that the Arab uprisings were directly tied to the rise of WikiLeaks; that meaning, Muslim citizens read about all of this corruption on the leaked documents and memos, and it stirred them up into a 1776-ish frenzy for liberty, capitalism and maybe even a hot dog or two, when nobody was looking.

The only problem with that explanation, however, is the fact that it’s completely made up hooey. Sure, there were mass riots out the yin-yang two years back, but those folks in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya weren’t exactly rebelling because of politics. For the most part, the primary reason all of that uprising went on was because of an entirely different kind of protest; that being, the cost of whole grain products in the region was just too damned expensive for most families to stomach anymore.

Granted, there are a lot of wealthy petroleum barons out there in the Arab world, but even all of that oil money can’t make up for the fact that, in virtually every country that experienced mass civil revolts in 2011, everybody living in said countries were stuck out in the middle of a goddamn desert. Seeing as how irrigation costs, not too mention a profound lack of arable soil, kinda’ keeps those Arabian folks from growing virtually any kind of grain, those nations were heavily dependent on imported wheat. Since the governments basically owned their respective nation’s foods markets -- and said governments weren’t too keen on spending importation tariff dues to ship Wonder Bread all the way to Eurasia -- essentially every last one of those soon-to-be disposed governments jacked up the prices of grain products to cover up their losses. I mean, what are half-starved, carbohydrate hungry people going to do when hamburger buns cost $45.00 a package, anyway…revolt?

Despite a lot of hard-to argue-against corollaries painting a pretty clear connection between civil unrest in the region and general food prices, the American media largely steered clear of connecting those same dots. Why, you may ask? If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that it probably has to do with marketing; I mean, which sounds sexier souped up on a webpage -- “Arabs want Freedom!” or “Arabs want Baklava?”

Associated Fun Facts! According to NPR, one of the driving factors behind the Arab uprisings was the music of Tupac Shakur. In other news, NPR is apparently being run by retards.

Fred Phelps: Universally Loathed Bigot…and Civil Rights Hero?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last decade, you’ve probably heard about Fred Phelps and his merry clan of hate-filled, lawyered-up Kansan brood. Their virulently anti-gay message includes picketing the funerals of dead U.S. troops -- because since the military lets the gays in, that makes them forces for Satan, or some other bullshit that makes my head hurt trying to figure out. Their greatest claim to fame, I suppose, is that they inspired -- and won -- a landmark Supreme Court case that pretty much validated that you have the First Amendment right to be an asshole.

As a man of many hats (and many Buffalo Bills windbreakers, it seems), this Freddy guy seems to be about the most insufferable prick you’d ever encounter. That said, taking a look back at his forays as a lawyer back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, one thing becomes, shockingly, apparent…

…in addition to being a contemporary gay-hating douche-bag, Fred Phelps was also one of the greatest unsung heroes of the Civil Rights movement. No, seriously.

According to the most reliable news source in history, Old Freddy pretty much built his entire law firm around civil rights cases. Considering that he had elected to stand up for the rights of black folks -- at the height of  the Jim Crow era, in Kansas, a state notorious for its unfriendly-to-people-of-color policies -- such a feat probably took a considerably hefty set of cojones to even consider. As a result, one of Phelps’ daughters alleged that, on several occasions, irate racists used to take shots at the Phelps’ family car. With, like, guns, and stuff. The kind that use bullets, I think.

According to at least one source, in the 1960s, about one third of the entire state’s federal civil rights cases docket had been filed by Phelps’ firm. Among other suits, Phelps represented clients alleging discrimination by school boards and an American Legion post that suffered some alleged (read: actual) abuse at the hands of some black-hating local police. Other (alleged, but probably) racially-discriminating agencies Camp Phelps took on included Southwestern Bell, Kansas City Power and Light, and the city attorney of Topeka. Garnering marginal equal rights points, he even represented two females that alleged sexual discrimination in the university system of Kansas (before getting disbarred for, among other things, berating a court reporter as a “slut” in a lawsuit destined for failure.)

And a few years later? Phelps was given not one, but two awards for his inspired civil rights work in the 1960s -- including one from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Associated Fun Facts! With his unabashed hatred of the gays, you’d reckon Phelps would be a true-red neo-con, but he’s actually a registered Democrat that has made four unsuccessful bids for Governor of Kansas, in addition to racking up a pretty impressive 31 percent of the vote in a 1992 Democratic primary senatorial run. And in 1988, the Westboro Baptist Church allegedly helped run Al Gore’s presidential primary campaign in Kansas.

Why YOU are personally more responsible for the National Debt than the U.S. Government.

How high is the United States National Debt at the moment? If you said “a lot,” you would be correct.

Currently, the wealthiest country in the world, and for that matter, the wealthiest in the history of humankind (well, maybe not in terms of median income levels, but like that MATTERS, right?), has also incurred the most staggering, astronomically mind-boggling tab of any empire ever (well, depending on whether or not you want to use GDP ratio data as a measuring stick), with an ever-increasing national debt that, as is, is already four times costlier in adjusted dollars than World War II.(*)

Although a lot of neo-conservatives and libertarian armchair economists perpetually chide the feds for their part in inflating the nation’s $16 trillion and growing debt, the truth of the matter is that the federal government’s role in that debt -- while, at $5 trillion, still mind-breakingly massive -- isn’t anywhere close to being the lion’s share of the United States’ gargantuan money woes. While intergovernmental holdings account for a large percentage of the debt (with Social Security Trusts accounting for almost half of the government’s owed dues), public debt in the United States is easily twice as high as what the feds have racked up.

For all of the incessant fear mongering brought about by China’s financial grip on the U.S. (accounting for about $1.16 trillion), the actual data indicates that their “possession” of the U.S is only marginally higher than the amount of U.S. monies owed to Japan (which is about $1.13 trillion.) And that “ownership” is actually dwarfed by the combined holdings of the Federal Reserve and the nation’s state and local governments -- a collective debt somewhere in the ballpark of $2.4 trillion. And the final tally when all private debts -- consisting of mutual funds, pension funds, insurance companies, banks, personal trusts and individual investments -- are factored into the debt pie? That’s a good $3.3 trillion dollars the United States public owes to itself -- a final estimate that’s about two-thirds the size of all foreign investor debts the nation currently owes.

Associated Fun Facts! While the U.S. debt, at 106 percent of the nation’s annual GDP, is pretty high, it’s still nowhere near as high as the debts racked up by countries like the Netherlands, Iceland and Luxembourg, whose respective debts are 344 percent, 999 percent and an unfathomable 3,443 percent of their respective gross domestic products!

(*) Some of you math nerds may be wondering how I came to that estimate. According to this source right here, the CBO tallied up the total cost of WWII to be about $4 trillion in adjusted dollars. And since the National Debt is about $16 trillion right now...well, you should know how numbers work by now.

Had JFK not been assassinated…well, he would’ve been dead, anyway.

In November of 1963, John F. Kennedy was killed by…somebody. For decades, individuals have wondered how things would have played out differently for the United States, and thusly, human history, had he not been capped that fateful day in November. Well, I mean, we would probably have one less Misfits song out there, but I’m sure it would have impacted other stuff, too.

The thing is, it’s sort of a moot point to discuss “what could’ve been” with JFK, for one primary reason: the dude was ALREADY in the process of dying before he died. And I’m not talking about that Sylvia Plath, existential “we’re all kinda’ dying” form of dying, but real-life, true blue “holy shit, this dude is terminally ill” kinda’ dying.

Let’s probe into the health history of Jack K, shall we?

As it turns out, Kennedy had this polyendocrine syndrome, which is sometimes referred to as Addison Disease. Even before he was formally diagnosed with the rare condition in 1947, it was painfully apparent that JFK had some major health problems; following a parade in 1946, he went into a violent convulsion that most onlookers thought was a heart attack. Hell, there’s even evidence out there that suggests that Kennedy’s dad and several physicians knew something was up (and keep in mind, despite this highly-debilitative illness, it didn’t prevent Kennedy from once towing a senior machinist from the wreckage of PT 109 using his goddamned teeth…while avoiding Japanese fire…in the middle of the night. And oh yeah, the dude had a really bad back while did all of that, too.)

Kennedy’s unusual disorder wasn’t exactly a secret, either. Scores of political opponents said that JFK tried to “cover-up” his health issues (which, yeah, he pretty much did). He also was a lifelong sufferer of diarrhea, which is completely irrelevant, but something I think needs to be addressed in a public forum, anyway.

Coupled with hypothyroidism and a botched back surgery in the mid ‘50s, it was pretty darn clear that this JFK fellow was not on course for octogenarian-hood. And to fully demonstrate just how severe Kennedy’s health problems were? In 1992, a pathologist present at JFK’s autopsy said that there was virtually NO adrenal tissue left in Kennedy’s body….a clear cut sign of extreme adrenal atrophy, which meant that had Kennedy not died in Dallas, he probably would have keeled over in just a matter of years from Addison Disease.

Associated Fun Facts! Abraham Zapruder, the guy that inadvertently filmed Kennedy’s assassination, sold the rights to his home movie to Life Magazine for a sum that, in modern US dollars, comes out to about $1.125 million. The day after the assassination, Zapruder had a nightmare that a peep show in Times Square was advertising the footage as a snuff film; according to the universe’s most reliable news source, that bad dream freaked out Zapruder so much that, for the rest of his life, he never so much as touched another video camera.

The ULTIMATE Nightmare: Freddy Krueger…the NAZI!

Wes Craven said that the inspiration for his iconic Elm Street protagonist came from an old drunk that used to hobble around his childhood home, whom had a penchant for stuffing his face in front of the future horror auteur’s bedroom window at wee hours in the morning. The namesake, legend has it, was borrowed from a classmate that tormented the future auteur when he was in grade school. Apparently, that elementary-school menace made quite the impact on Mr. Craven, who not only named his most revered cinematic creation in Mr. Krueger’s honor, but had a habit of naming characters in his pre-Elm Street filmography by the same surname. Fun Fact: Did you know one of the numerous “alternate titles” for “Last House on the Left” was “Krug and Company?”

On the surface, it seems like it’s impossible to imagine a more horrifying Freddy Krueger than what Wes Craven dreamed up; a fictional, dream-haunting, horribly burned child-killer with God-like powers, or the real world portmanteau of a psychotic first grade aggressor and a disfigured roving alky-bum. But as fate would have it, there’s actually a historical precursor to the Freddy Krueger that we all know and love that might just be even creepier.

That’s right, folks: meet Freddy Krueger…S.S. Officer!

Friedrich Wilhelm-Kruger, as it turns out, was a high-ranking member of both Hitler’s SA and SS police forces, serving a near four-year stint as SS and Police Leader in Poland’s General Government (as in, the “General Government” that was ran by occupying Nazis.)

Now, it’s a pretty spectacular coincidence that there’s a Nazi official named “Fred Krueger” to begin with, but the parallels between Fred K. S.S. war criminal, and Fred K., beloved cinematic maniac, go far beyond mere namesakes. Not only was the “real life” Kruger similarly surrounded by children all the time (he adopted three in addition to the two he fathered), one of the most pivotal moments of his career came after he survived, you guessed it…the Night of the Long Knives. And oh yeah, take a look at the dude…if you’re not seeing some serious Robert Englund-ish facial features going on here, you probably need a new set of bifocals.

Eventually, Fred. K became a super-important official in Poland, perpetrating quite a handful of atrocities over his tenure; among other acts, he squashed a handful of extermination camp uprisings, evacuated Warsaw’s ghettos for cheap labor, and probably killed at least a million farmers by driving them out into the middle of nowhere. After Hitler bit the big one, Kruger responded in kind by similarly offing himself…only to return as a hideously scarred dream demon that killed Ohioan teens for a better chunk of the 1980s. Well, not really, but if he could, he no doubt would’ve.

Associated Fun Facts! In addition to being a world-famous Illinoisan psycho killer, were you aware that Michael Myers is also a corrupt politician from Pennsylvania and a former defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos?

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