• moving-urban-legends

    We all remember with disbelief and horror when the Supreme Court stole the 2000 election for George Bush. Half the country reeled in a mixture of anger and despair as democracy was shut down by partisan judges. And as we all know, the next eight years represented one of the worst (if not the worst) presidential administrations the country ever experienced. The fact that we survived those eight years is a testament to the resilience of the American experience, in which a president, no matter how incompetent, cannot single-handedly destroy the country.

    Many celebrities had a premonition in 2000 of what was to come, and threatened to leave the US if George Bush was sworn into office. There were many emotionally moving quotes uttered by Hollywood stars who felt a life under Bush was going to be hellish. But, like most celebrity pronouncements, the vast majority of these threats to leave never materialized. For instance, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder vowed to leave, even though his vote for Ralph Nader helped seal Al Gore’s fate. Vedder was quite concerned about Bush’s control of Supreme Court nominations, and in retrospect, he was quite correct to be worried. Any court that would rule as it did in the Citizens United case is hopelessly incompetent, if not downright venal.

    Alec Baldwin, star of the hit series 30 Rock, made some statement to his then wife, actress Kim Basinger, to the effect that he would also leave the country in reaction to the Bush coronation. In a statement to the East Hampton Star, Baldwin predicted the moral bankruptcy of the new administration: exploding the deficit with tax cuts for the rich, failed experiments in public education, rampant prison construction, capital punishment for indigent defendants, etc. His prognostications turned out to be correct, but he ultimately chose to stay in this country, saying he had never made the threat to leave. Of course, the right-wing fringe was more than happy to show Baldwin the door, often in the most vile and obscene terms. It eventually developed that the threat attributed to Alec Baldwin may have come instead from director Robert Altman, who had promised to leave the US if Bush won.

    Other celebrities who toyed with idea of leaving the country include former White House press secretary Pierre Salinger, singers Barbra Streisand and Cher, and actress Lynn Redgrave. Salinger was ultimately as good as his word, living out the remainder of his life in France.

  • urban-legends-about-e-cigarettes

    There are good and bad reasons for electing to use electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) rather than tobacco products. The good reasons include convenience, health concerns, and circumventing non-smoking rules. A bad reason is using e-cigs due to some ridiculous urban legend regarding regular cigarettes. Let’s debunk one popular myth: inhaling filtered cigarettes from the wrong end causes genital dysfunction.

    It started with a scare email that went out in 2000. It talked about the likelihood of occasionally lighting the wrong end of your filtered cigarette due to drunkenness, distraction, or darkness. You light up, take a deep drag, and then cough your brains out. The nasty taste haunts you for a while, and you are very careful to light your next smoke correctly. So far, so good. Then the email jumped the shark by stating that filters contain a chemical called tralfamadoraphyl. The chemical was claimed to generally be harmless unless it is burned and inhaled. Then, the chemical builds up in your body and blocks blood flow to your reproductive organs, in both sexes. Supposedly, if you lit the wrong end once a month, you would have a serious problem within three to four years.

    Yikes! I mean, what smoker hasn’t occasionally lit the wrong end of their cigarette? Relax, it’s a fake. Were there any telltale signs that we were dealing with an urban legend? Sure: unnamed scientists, unnamed study, greedy tobacco companies wanting to make a buck even if it sacrifices your health (wait a minute, that last one is true…). Anyway, there is no such thing as tralfamadoraphyl. The word was coined by a reader of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five; Tralfamador is the mythical prison planet holding Billy Pilgrim. The Vonnegut fan simply appended the suffix –phyl, which sounds scientific, like chlorophyll.

    The only problem with smoking the wrong end of a modern cigarette is getting the taste of burning cellulose out of your mouth. It’s truly awful. In the old days, (between 1952 and 1956) filters were less innocent — Kent had a filter that contained asbestos! Then, in 1995, Philip Morris had to recall 8 billion filtered cigarettes due to contamination that formed a pesticide. Since then, filters have been pretty innocuous. The filter doesn’t kill you, it’s the tobacco. That’s a valid reason to use tobacco alternatives such as nicotine gum, nicotine patches and e-cigs. And that is no myth.

  • bmw-facts-and-fables

    Like any fine consumer brand, BMW automobiles are subject to an occasional false story, urban legend or malicious rumor. Usually, the more highly respected a brand name is, the more potshots are taken at it by competitors and malcontents. We suppose it is fun to tweak the nose of the big boy on the block, but it’s also important to set the record straight from time to time.

    For instance, there was a rumor that the shift paddles on certain BMW models were only for show. The models in question have manumatic shifting – you have the choice of using the automatic transmission or to do clutchless up and down shifts. We think the rumor got started because some customers tried to paddle-shift while in automatic mode. If you aren’t brain-damaged, you should realize that shifts are electronically controlled in this mode. We think that drivers who made this complaint would be happier with a used Chevy Chevette or some other loser car.

    Another scurrilous rumor was that there was a shortage of E36 parts, such as a BMW fuel pump. Nothing could be further from the truth. Obviously, some other manufacturers were jealous of E36 sales and tried to sabotage the brand by causing needless worries. We think such competitors are pathetic, and we think you know who we mean, nicht wahr?

    How about the old canard about an “emergency brake” that fails to prevent a speeding car with busted brakes from crashing through a guard rail into a fiery death spiral before hitting the canyon floor and exploding. Sure, it can happen from time to time, especially in California, but to blame the “emergency brake” is completely wrong, because it is actually a parking brake – its purpose is to keep the car from rolling when parked. Neanderthals who complain about this don’t have the slightest understanding of how a car is designed, and probably deserve whatever happens to them.

    Finally, there was a wild rumor that some BMW engines were being assembled in China by slave workers. We seriously doubt this could be true, although we have never been to China and are not aware of its labor practices. But no self-respecting company would ever admit to such a business practice, whether true or not. Folks who spread this type of rumor are completely baffled by international trade agreements, and would be better served by concentrating on improving their own lives, not worrying about what happens or doesn’t happen in China.

  • the-importance-of-an-urban-legend-website

    If you have been one of the unfortunate individuals to have fallen for a false urban legend, you probably have some unique experiences that you can share with others. Hundreds of urban myths occur each year, but some victims were not even aware that they were at risk for being gullible. As a living victim, you can help raise awareness of the possibilities open to thousands of people for the opportunity of a lifetime – to debunk an urban legend. Many people would be interested in reading the blog of a myth debunker, whether or not you were originally taken in by the myth.

  • gift giving superstitions and legends

    Superstitions: There are a lot of superstitions and legends involving the giving and receiving of gifts. For instance it was at one time considered bad luck to give a pair of scissors or a knife as a gift because it was feared that the act would “cut” the friendship in half. Therefore knives were never given as wedding gifts as it was believed they would lead to a broken marriage.

    Also never give anyone a pair of shoes as a Christmas gift because they would make the person you give them to walk away from you. When you give someone a gift of a wallet or purse be sure to put some money into it, even if only a coin, to ward off bad luck. At one time bakers would throw in an extra roll when you bought a dozen as a “gift” in case any of the other rolls were too small. This “gift” became known as the baker’s dozen.

    Urban legends: Legends are told as having happened long, long ago whereas urban legends are set in contemporary times and told as having happened to people known either personally to the teller or to someone known by a person the teller knows. The places and names change as they are updated to fit current times and all carry a warning or lesson of some sort. There may even be some truth to the story although the people and places have been changed so many times that it becomes hard to determine what the truth actually was.

    One such tale recounts a king’s offer of a gift to a famous golfer (sometimes the golfer is named other times he is just “a famous golfer”) who after first declining the gift asks for a golf club only to find to his amazement that the king has bought him an entire golf course.

    In several different legends, although the people and circumstances change the story and its warning are the same. A son (nephew, daughter, niece…) is expecting a very expensive gift (car, house, inheritance…) from his father (uncle, aunt…) but receives a bible. In a fit of anger he throws the bible at the giver and leaves not returning until the givers death when he notices the bible from so long ago, opens it and finds the (key to the car, check to the car dealer, will leaving him everything etc.).

    Then there are the one-up-manship legends. Two or more siblings vie to get the best gift for their mother (houses, cars, jewels) with one going to great expense to get a bird (myna, parrot…) that has been specially trained (to read the bible, sing opera, speak Italian…). The mother politely thanks all (while letting them know their gift wasn’t very practical) then speaks proudly of the child who had the sense to bring her the delicious chicken.

    There is also a true story of two brothers who re-gifted the same pair of pants back and forth wrapped in very creative ways, from rolling them into a 3′ long 1″ wide pipe to stuffing them into the glove compartment of a car that they then had crushed and delivered in time for Christmas. The pants went back and forth for 25 years before they finally fell apart.

  • urban legends of the presidency

    When the United States was first founded, it took a while for them to concede to even have a President at all. It was believed that having one central executive figure would be too much like having a king – something they still shuddered at the thought of. Well, in terms of how kingdoms tend to inspire legends, they were at least partly right – quite a bit of folklore has grown up around the office of President. Let’s get to the bottom of some of these and sort the truth from the balderdash.

    Did Jimmy Carter see a UFO?

    Well, the former President certainly seemed to think he did. He filed a report with the Center for UFO Studies in Evanston, Illinois, in September of 1973. The report claimed that in October, 1969, Mr. Carter and a group of a dozen people spotted a hovering object in the sky. For a period of between ten and twelve minutes, it slowly changed in color, size, and brightness, before it disappearing from view, apparently by retreating into the sky. Later analysis has it that what was witnessed was the planet Venus and some peculiar atmospheric conditions that made it look funny. Typically.

    Did Ronald Reagan believe in astrology?

    In a word, no. His wife and First Lady Nancy Reagan did, however. Chief of staff Donald Regan revealed that Nancy would consult with an astrologer when setting up travel plans. This got hooked by the media who made it sound like Ronald himself was directing national policy out of the newspaper astrology columns. Reagan himself said of the incident, “The media are behaving like kids with a new toy – never mind that there is no truth to it.” It is suspected that Nancy Reagan developed a superstitious fear of her husband traveling after the attempt at his assassination.

    Are Presidents members of a secret “Skull and Bones” society?

    No, but a few of our Presidents and Presidential candidates have been members. Despite the ominous name, “Skull and Bones” is one of dozens of collegiate secret societies, which are really nothing but high-society frat clubs for graduates, and it is even only one of eleven current secret societies at Yale University. Rest assured that the sole purpose of a college-based secret society is to make people wonder why you have one and what goes on in there. “Skull and Bones” is very well-documented in online references, complete with pictures of their meeting place. The rumors fly around about their supposed rituals, but if they don’t like that, they have no one to blame but themselves for their silly game.

    Was there a curse on Presidents elected in a zero year?

    The legend of the curse grew up around the fact that, indeed, seven Presidents in a row who were elected in years ending in zeroes did die in office, four from assassinations and three from natural causes. That would be enough to make anyone leery. Reagan, however, was elected in 1980 and survived his terms and long after as well, so whatever “curse” there was may now be considered broken.

    Does the taller candidate win the election?

    This myth has been investigated and debunked, with hard evidence to bust it, but people still think that there is a statistical bias towards taller candidates. While there is evidence at this point that winning candidates have an inch or two on average over the loser, people seem to forget that the small sample is likely to produce skewed results. We have only had 43 presidents of the United States so far, and in a statistical sample that short, you could make up almost any hypothesis about winners vs. losers – the one with the longest name, the one with the darker suit, the one with a fuller head of hair – and find some justification. There’s also a theory that white males from rich families always win elections, which is so far slightly more sustainable.

    Did Zachary Taylor die from eating a bowl of cherries?

    The conditions surrounding his demise in office are certainly poorly documented. The cause of death is officially “cholera morbus” which pretty much includes food poisoning from bacteria, cholera, dysentery, and other illnesses from eating a nasty bug or spoiled food. The diagnosis held even after an autopsy in which he was exhumed to rule out assassination. Remember that it was the mid-1800’s, and food safety and sanitation practices weren’t very modern. Heat stroke has also been cited as a factor, since he was attending a July 4th celebration at the time he fell ill. In any case, just before he died he did eat cherries, along with some milk, green apples, and pickled cucumbers, so it might have been any of those.

  • many-get-rich-scams-are-found-on-urban-legend-websites

    As an accounting specialist holding a FINRA Series 27 license, I know that there are a fair number of schemers and scammers out there who will do or say just about anything to get your money. The get-rich-quick scheme is a particularly nasty version of an urban legend, and many websites cite examples to caution readers. Although schemes have been around since one monkey stole a coconut from another monkey, the Internet has been especially fertile ground for schemers to prey upon some people’s gullibility or desperation.

    A common Internet scheme involves the use of the phrase “affiliate marketing” to lure in suckers. Now, affiliate marketing is a perfectly legitimate activity, unlike these get-rich-schemes. The schemes promise a good income in return for little knowledge or work on your part. These schemes usually share the following lies:

    • Signing up to the scheme is a virtual guarantee of a quick fortune.
    • The scheme provider has a secret formula or knowledge that is indispensible to make the scheme work.
    • They claim to be legitimate and to be featured on Yahoo or Facebook. This has the effect of implying an
    • endorsement.
    • They affect an air of urgency to hustle you into signing up quickly, before the opportunity disappears.
    • Phony testimonials abound.
    • When you try to leave the website, the program either won’t let you or pops up with a special discount.
    • The scheme is presented as a success story that has changed the lives of “people like you”.

    One variant is the Google affiliate scam, in which you are promised a sizable income by performing affiliate advertising on Google. They often illegally display the Google logo in an attempt to hoodwink unsuspecting individuals. Another scheme involves sales leads. In this one, you are told you can sell leads for various purposes by simply sending out emails to a prepared list of “potential customers”. The lists are bogus and so are the claims, which infuriates legitimate lead sellers.

    Beware of emails from a foreign country telling you that you’re in line to receive a substantial inheritance from a long-lost relative. All you have to do is send in some money to handle the paperwork. Of course, there is no inheritance and any money you send in is lost forever. Another variant is to be a “business agent” for a foreign company in which you are supposed to deposit checks into your bank account, and then write new checks against the “deposits”. Inevitably, the deposits bounce and you are out the amount of the checks you’ve written. Your money has been laundered and you’ve been suckered.

    Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it is.