Tag Archives: Food for Thought

The Insidious Blue Whale Challenge (Game)


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

.

The insidious online Blue Whale Challenge (Game) has changed the mindset of vulnerable teenagers and young adults in their formative years who aspire to be part of something bigger than what they could achieve. This fatal game with its origin in Russia exploits this weakness.

The Blue Whale Game began in Russia in 2013 with “F57”, one of the names of the so-called “death group” of the VKontakte, the largest European online social media and social networking site that offers services in several languages, and is very popular especially among those who speak Russian.

The game is also known by other names such as “Blue Whale Suicide,” “F57“, “A Silent House,” “A Sea Of Whales,” and “Wake Me Up At 4:20 am” and allegedly caused its first suicide on Christmas Day 2015 when 12-year-old Angelina Davydova, fell to her death from the 14th floor of a block in central Russia. She was a member of the user group called ‘Wake Me Up at 4.20 am‘ which had more than a quarter of a million subscribers before it was blocked.

In 2016, Blue Whale game came into broader use among Russian teenagers after a journalist brought attention to it through an article that linked many unrelated suicide victims to the Blue Whale game, creating a wave of moral panic in Russia.

.

The Devil: Philipp Budeikin aka Philipp Lis (Fox)

.

Philipp Budeikin aka Philipp Lis (Fox), an innocent looking 21-year-old young Russian Psychology student who was expelled from his university claimed that he invented this Internet suicide game in 2013 in which the player is given certain tasks to complete during a period of 50 days. Since then he polished his tactics of recruiting. Now, the final task leads the player to commit suicide.

Philipp and his aides at first attracted as many children as possible into the VK (social media) groups by using mega-scary videos. Then they chose those who would be the most affected by psychological manipulation. They knew that out of 20,000 people, their audience would be only 20 people or 0.1%.

The administrators of the death group referred to the children they pushed to commit suicide as ‘biological waste‘.

In July 2017, Philipp Budeikin was arrested and he pleaded guilty to “inciting at least 16 teenage girls to commit suicide”. This led to the Russian suicide prevention legislation and also rekindled worldwide concern over the Blue Whale suicide phenomenon.

After getting arrested the 21-year-old did not exhibit a single sign of remorse on his face. After confessing to the crimes in a statement to the police he said that he thinks his young female victims were ‘happy to die‘ and that he was ‘cleansing the society‘ by pushing to suicide those he considered as ‘biological waste‘.

While being held at Kresty jail in St Petersburg the inventor of this suicide-inducing ‘game’, received dozens of love letters from teenage girls.

He is not thought to be the only organiser and according to BBC understands more people are being looked for in connection with these so-called “death groups”.

On February 21, 2017, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a United States government-funded broadcasting organization that provides news, information, and analysis to countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, reported that people are finding curators by using the Russian-language hashtags of “blue whale,” “sea of whales,” “I’m in the game,” “Wake me at 4:20 am,” “F58,” along with many others and that there were 4,000 searches for the hashtags on January 20, 2017, alone.

The often seen flying whale is said to be a chosen symbol due to whales committing suicide by jumping out of the water and beaching themselves on land. It is said that the whales are going to freedom.

An RFE/RL correspondent after creating a fake profile for a 15-year-old girl on the popular Russian social media site VKontakte spoke to a so-called curator of the Blue Whale game.

RFE/RL correspondent: “I want to play the game.

Curator: “Are you sure? There is no way back.”

RFE/RL correspondent: “Yes. What does that mean — no way back?

Curator: “You can’t leave the game once you begin.

RFE/RL correspondent: “I’m ready.

Then the curator explained the rules.

You carry out each task diligently, and no one must know about it. When you finish a task, you send me a photo. And at the end of the game, you die. Are you ready?

RFE/RL correspondent: “And if I want to get out?

Curator: “I have all your information. They will come after you.”

Over the course of a week, RFE/RL claimed they managed to speak to over a dozen people who claimed to be either players or curators.

Here is the list of 50 challenges of the Blue Whale Game that force players to commit suicide.

1. Carve with a razor “F57” or “F58” on your hand, send a photo to the curator.

Note: An RFE/RL correspondent responded by sending a photoshopped picture to prove the completion of the task, and the communication with the curator ended.

2. Wake up at 4:20 a.m. and watch psychedelic and scary videos that curator sends you.

3. Cut your arm with a razor along your veins, but not too deep, only 3 cuts, send a photo to the curator.

Note: Click on the link below to see a video about the task#3. The video contains graphic and disturbing scenes that may not be acceptable for all audiences. In this video, as strange music plays in the background an arm that appears with a presumably self-induced deep cut across the wrist. The hand moves forcing blood to leak from the wound.

http://thedailyhaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/f58.mp4?_=2

4. Draw a whale on a piece of paper, send a photo to the curator.

5. If you are ready to become a whale, carve YES on your leg. If not, cut yourself many times (punish yourself).

6. A task with a cipher.

7. Carve F40 on your hand, send a photo to the curator.

8. Type #i_am_whale in your VKontakte (a Russian social network) status.

9. You have to overcome your fear.

10. Wake up at 4 a.m. and go to a roof (the higher the better)

11. Carve a whale on your hand with a razor, send a photo to the curator.

12. Watch psychedelic and horror videos all day.

13. Listen to music that curator sends you.

14. Cut your lip.

15. Poke your hand with a needle many times.

16. Do something painful to yourself, make yourself sick.

17. Go to the highest roof you can find, stand on the edge for some time.

18. Go to a bridge, stand on the edge.

19. Climb up a crane or at least try to do it.

20. The curator checks if you are trustworthy.

21. Have a talk with a whale (with another blue game player) in Skype.

22. Go to a roof and sit on the edge with your legs dangling.

23. Another task with a cipher.

24. Secret task.

25. Have a meeting with a whale.

26. The curator tells you the date of your death and you have to accept it.

27. Wake up at 4:20 a.m. and visit any railroad near you.

28. Don’t talk to anyone all day.

29. Make a vow that you are a whale

From 30th to 49th day wake up at 4:20 a.m., watch horror videos, listen to music that the curator sends you, make 1 cut on your body, talk to a whale.

50. Kill yourself by jump off a high building, or by hanging from a noose, or go under a train or swallowing negative side tablets. Take your whale.

.

RELATED ARTICLES

Advertisements

Oh, What a Name?


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike KCMG JP.

.

Most Sinhalese names of the Ceylonese colonial-era are mouth-filling. Here is an interesting name:

Sir Solomon Dias Abeywickrema Jayatilleke Senewiratna Rajakumaruna Kadukeralu Bandaranaike

I wonder whether the bearer of this name would have recited his name without forgetting a single one, and in the correct order.

Sir Solomon Dias Abeywickrema Jayatilleke Senewiratna Rajakumaruna Kadukeralu BandaranaikeKCMG, Maha Mudaliyar, JP  (May 22, 1862 – July 31, 1946) was a Ceylonese colonial-era headman. Appointed as Head Mudaliyar and the aide-de-camp to the British Governor of Ceylon, he was one of the most powerful personalities in British colonial Ceylon.

In 1898, Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, married Daisy Ezline Obeyesekere, daughter of Solomon Christoffel Obeyesekere, a member of the Legislative Council of Ceylon. His son, Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, became the 4th Prime Minister of Ceylon after independence, and his granddaughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga, became both Prime Minister and President of Sri Lanka. His grandson, Anura Bandaranaike, became Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka.

.

RELATED ARTICLES

The Meat of the Land Monitor (thalagoya) Was a Yesteryear Delicacy in Ceylon!


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

Sri Lankan Land Monitor lizard (thalagoya)

.

The monitor lizards are large lizards in the genus Varanus. They are native to Africa, Asia and Oceania. Currently, a total of 79 species has been recognized.

The Bengal monitor lizard, also known as the common Indian monitor lizard, is found in Asia and Africa.

The length of this large, mainly terrestrial lizard, can range from about 61 to 175 cm (24 inches to 69 inches) from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail. While the adults mainly hunt on the ground preying on arthropods, small terrestrial vertebrates, ground birds, eggs and fish, the young monitors are more arboreal.

In Sri Lanka, there are two types of monitor lizards: (1) the Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) (Sinhala: kabaragoya-කබරගොයා; Tamil: kalawathan-களவத்தன்) and (2) the Land Monitor (Varanus bengalensis) (Sinhala: thalagoya-තලගොයා; Tamil: Udumbu-உடும்பு). While the former is shunned as poisonous, the latter is considered somewhat harmless.

It is widely said that Tanaji Malusare, a general in the army of the Maratha ruler Shivaji used the land monitors to scale the fort of Kondana in Pune, India because these lizards have a firm grip. In Tamil, ‘a firm grip’ is expressed as udumbu pidi (உடும்புப்பிடி).

In India, the skin of this lizard has traditionally been used in making the Kanjira, a South Indian classical percussion instrument. Now, however, the skin of the lizard is not in vogue owing to the increased awareness to the dwindling population of the lizard.

In Tamil Nadu and all other parts of South India, the monitor lizards are listed under the Protected Species Act.

The lizard evokes mixed responses from the people across the world. It is killed for sport in North Eastern India.

In Sri Lanka, the meat of the thalagoya is considered a delicacy.

Way back in 1947, when I was 6 years old, I was boarded at St. Gabriel’s School in Yatiyantota, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

In the evenings, we, about 40 boarders walked in two-by-two formation to the playground a kilometre or so away from the school.

On our way, when our seniors saw a thalagoya they immediately broke away from the queue and went after the thalagoya with stones and sticks which they picked up on the roadside.

After killing the thalagoya, two seniors would return to the boarding house kitchen carrying the carcass and hand it over to the chief cook. That night we had thalagoya curry.

It was an unwritten rule that the person who threw the fatal stone should be honoured. The cooked tongue of the thalagoya inserted into a hollowed out ripe banana was ceremoniously presented to the ‘killer’. It is believed that the tongue of the thalagoya is a cure for stammering and asthma.

While travelling to Trincomalee by bus, the drivers used to stop the vehicle at a roadside boutique cum eatery for lunch at Dambulla. The waiter after sizing up the people who sat at the tables would ask in hushed voice whether they would like to savour thalagoya curry. On three occasion I ordered the delicacy and it was not costly.

In 1974, my neighbours at Layards Broadway, Colombo -14, spotted a thalagoya in a vacant plot. It might have sneaked in from the Sebastian Canal that connects with the Kelani Ganga. After killing and skinning the reptile, they inquired whether my wife who was born and bred in Badulla and known as an excellent cook would cook it for them. My wife refused, saying she had never cooked thalagoya meat. That night around 11 pm one of the neighbours brought a dish of the thalagoya meat curry prepared by his wife. My wife and children were apprehensive and refused to eat it and with curiosity watched me eating the delicacy.

The following day one of my neighbours told me he had given the skin of the thalagoya to a maker of musical (percussion) drums.

.

RELATED ARTICLES

Love Your Husband Even If…


Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

.

Love your husband even if he criticises your cooking; he purely wants you to excel in the culinary arts!

Love your husband even if he tells you to make tea or coffee at odd times; he wants to feel fresh to listen to your nonstop nagging.

Love your husband even if he steals a glance at other women; it is his way of checking that you are still the best.

Love your husband even if he makes himself a nuisance by snoring at night; it proves that he is more relaxed after being married to you.

Love your husband even if he forgets your birthday and the necklace you were yearning for so long; remember, he is saving the money for your future.

Love your husband always, because you do not have any other choice; remember the oath you both took during your marriage ceremony, “to love and cherish” each other forever.

Love your husband always, because, Exodus 20:13 admonishes: “Thou shalt not kill”; anyway, even if you are not religious, murder is a still a legal offence.

History of Mother’s Day – Part 2


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

Mother’s Day in 1908

In Webster, Taylor County, West Virginia, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis (1832 – 1905), a social activist, led a women’s group that celebrated an adaptation of Julia Ward Howe’s holiday. She and her daughter Anna Marie Jarvis (1864 – 1948), are now recognized as the founders of the Mother’s Day holiday in the United States.

Ann-Maria-Reeves-Jarvis
Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis

.

Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis was born in Culpeper, Virginia, on September 30, 1832, to Rev.  Josiah Washington Reeves and his wife, Nancy Kemper Reeves. The family moved to Barbour County in present-day West Virginia when the Rev. Reeves got transferred to a Methodist church in Philippi. In 1850, Ann married Granville E. Jarvis, the son of a Philippi Baptist minister. Two years later, Granville and Ann Jarvis moved to nearby Webster in Taylor County.

In the 1850s, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis lost eight of her 11 children before they reached the age of seven due to poor health conditions in the area. With the help of her brother, Dr James E. Reeves, she organized “Mother’s Friendship Clubs” in Webster, Grafton, Fetterman, Pruntytown, and Philippi, to improve health and sanitary conditions.

Thousands of women learned nursing and proper sanitation. Among other services, the clubs raised money for medicine, hired women to work for families in which the mothers suffered from tuberculosis, and inspected bottled milk and food. In 1860, local doctors helped to form Mother’s Friendship Club in other towns.

During the American Civil War, this noble woman urged the Mother’s Friendship Clubs to declare their neutrality and give relief to both Union and Confederate soldiers. The Club members nursed and cared for soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

Following the end of the war, she called on her club members to help mend the wounds of the war by reuniting the Union and Confederate families who fought on opposing sides by holding a “Mother’s Friendship Day.”

The Andrews Methodist Church built at Grafton, West Virginia and dedicated in 1873 was built under her husband’s leadership. Ann Maria Jarvis’ life revolved around the church. She taught Sunday School at the church for more than 20 years. After her husband’s death in 1902, Ann moved to Philadelphia to live with her son Claude and daughters Anna and Lillian.

Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis died on May 9, 1905, in Bala Cynwyd, in southeastern Pennsylvania, bordering the western edge of Philadelphia.

.

Anna Marie Jarvis
Anna Marie Jarvis

.

After Ann Maria Reeves Reeves’ death, her daughter Anna Marie Jarvis, began a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States to honour her mother’s wish that there be a day set aside to honour all mothers.

In 1908, Anna Marie petitioned the superintendent of the church where her mother had spent over 20 years teaching Sunday School to hold a memorial service to honour her mother who died three years before. Her request was accepted, and on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, and at a church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The event in Grafton drew a congregation of 407. Anna Jarvis had arranged for her mother’s favourite flower – white carnations. Two carnations were given to every mother in attendance.

At present times, people use white carnations to pay tribute to deceased mothers, and pink or red carnations to honour living mothers.

In 1912 West Virginia was the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day. 

.

President Woodrow Wilson
President Woodrow Wilson

.

On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson, a friend of Anna Marie Jarvis, signed a Congressional Resolution setting the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to celebrate Mother’s Day.

.

Portrait

.

Soon, other countries too adopted Mother’s Day of Anna Marie Jarvis.

However, by the 1920s, Anna Marie Jarvis felt disappointed with the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

.

← Previous:  History of Mother’s Day – Part 1

.

History of Mother’s Day – Part 1


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

The tradition of honouring Motherhood has its roots in antiquity.

Osiris was the lord of the dead in the ancient...
Osiris

According to the primaeval Egyptian mythology, divine Osiris, the eldest son of the Earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut was the god of fertility, the afterlife, the underworld and the dead.

Osiris was a wise king who brought civilization. His siblings were Horus the Elder, Seth, Isis, and Nephthys. His younger brother Seth was the god of the desert, storms, darkness, and chaos. He was hostile and outright evil. Though they were brothers their diametric personalities made them adversaries.

Osiris was happily married to his sister, Isis while Seth married his other sister Nephthys.

Though Osiris and Seth were brothers, their diametric personalities made them adversaries.

Seth, the envious brother slew Osiris, dismembered him into 13 pieces and scattered the remains all over Egypt. He usurped the throne of his dead brother.

Isis
Isis

Isis collected the dismembered body of her brother-husband Osiris, reassembled the pieces. As the archetypal mummy, Osiris reigned over the after-world as a king among deserving spirits of the dead.

Isis used the embalmed corpse of Osiris to impregnate herself to conceive posthumously. She gave birth to Horus. She then hid her baby son amidst reeds lest Seth slaughtered him too. Horus grew up as a natural enemy of Seth, defeated him and became the first ruler of a unified Egypt. Isis thus earned her stature as the “Mother of the Pharaohs.

In ancient Egypt and Ethiopia, Isis was one of the four most widely venerated deities. The ancient Egyptians held an annual festival to honour the goddess Isis as the ideal mother and wife.

The worship of Isis spread throughout the Greco-Roman world as the patroness of nature and magic; friend of slaves, sinners, artisans, and the poor. The rich aristocrats, rulers and maidens prayed to the goddess who was also known as the goddess of children, and protector of the dead.

Despite being a foreign deity, the Romans venerated Isis and reserved a place for her in their temples. The Romans commemorated an important battle with a festival in her name that lasted for three days with female dancers, musicians and singers marking the beginning of winter.

.

Black Madonna

.

Societies around the world celebrated symbols of motherhood as mythological goddesses and not real human mothers except the Christian Church. The Mother and Son imagery of Isis and Horus, where Isis cradles and suckles her son, and that of the Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus is astonishingly similar.

.

Celebrations in England and Europe

By the 16th century, due to the spread of Christianity, people in England and Europe moved away from the ancient roman religious and cultural traditions. Hilaria, the ancient Roman religious festival celebrated on the vernal equinox to honour Cybele gave way to Laetare Sunday – the fourth Sunday of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar (the 40 days of fasting preceding Easter Sunday), once known as “the Sunday of the Five Loaves.” Christians in England used this Sunday, to honour the Mother of Christ and decorated the church in which they were baptized, which they knew as their “Mother Church” with flowers and offerings.

In the 17th century, a clerical decree in England referred to the Laetare Sunday as “Mothering Day.” The decree broadened the celebration, from one focused on the “Mother of Christ” and the “Mother Church,” to include real mothers. It became a compassionate holiday toward the working classes of England. During this Lenten Sunday, the masters allowed their servants and trade workers to travel back to their towns of origin to visit their families. Mothering Day also provided a reprieve from the fasting and penance of Lent. Across England family members, living far away came home to visit and enjoy a family feast. The children presented cakes and flowers to their mothers.

.

Celebrations in America

The first English settlers, the Pilgrims, who came to America discontinued the traditional Mothering Day. They fled from England to practice a more conservative Christianity without being persecuted. In the new land, they lived under harsh conditions and worked long hours to survive. Due to their devotion to God, they ignored secular holidays. For them, even holidays such as Christmas and Easter were sombre occasions that took place in a Church stripped of all extraneous ornamentation.

.

Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe conceptualized the first North American Mother’s Day with her “Mother’s Day Proclamation.”

.

Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe

.

Julia Ward (May 27, 1819 — October 17, 1910) born in New York City was a prominent American abolitionist, social activist, and poet. She wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” after she and her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, visited Washington, D. C., and met President Abraham Lincoln at the White House in November 1861.

.

American Civil War soldiers

.

Twelve years later, distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War, she called on mothers to protest what she saw as “the futility of their sons killing the sons of other mothers.” She wrote the following “Mother’s Day Proclamation” and called for an international Mother’s Day to celebrate peace and motherhood:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonour, nor violence indicates possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask That a general congress of women without limit of nationality May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And at the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.

Julia Ward Howe even proposed converting July 4th into Mother’s Day, to dedicate the nation’s anniversary to peace, but June 2nd was designated for the celebration.

In 1873, women’s groups in 18 North American cities observed this new Mother’s Day. Initially, Julia funded many of these celebrations. Most of them died out when she stopped funding. Boston city, however, continued celebrating Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day for the next ten years.

Despite the failure of her Mother’s Day, Julia Ward had nevertheless planted the seed that blossomed into the modern Mother’s Day.

.

Next: → History of Mother’s Day – Part 2

.

Analemma, the Slender Figure Eight in the Sky


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

Definition of Analemma by Merriam-Webster: “A plot or graph of the position of the sun in the sky at a certain time of day (such as noon) at one locale measured throughout the year that has the shape of a figure 8; also : a scale (as on a globe or sundial) based on such a plot that shows the sun’s position for each day of the year or that allows local mean time to be determined.

Our Earth orbits around the Sun on an elliptical path. It also revolves around the Sun on a slant with an axial tilt of about 23.4 degrees. This leads to some interesting observational effects. One of these is the analemma, the apparent path traced by the Sun in the sky when observed at the same time of day over the course of a year.

Due to the Earth’s orbital eccentricity and its axial tilt, our Sun does not appear in the same position in the sky at the same time every day throughout the year. These two factors combine to generate the slender figure-eight, called analemma ( Greek “support”) curve.

So, the astronomers use this analemma diagram that shows the deviation of the Sun from its mean motion in the sky, as viewed from a fixed location on the Earth.

.

Analemma on a globe (Source: analemma.com)

.

The analemma diagram with the Sun’s path resembling a lopsided figure eight can often be found printed on globes of the Earth, usually somewhere over the Pacific Ocean where there is lots of room to print it.

The north–south component of the analemma is the Sun’s declination, and the east–west component is the equation of time. Most often, the diagrams of analemmas carry marks that show the position of the Sun at various closely spaced dates throughout the year. Analemmas with date marks are used for various practical purposes. Without date marks, they are of little use, except as decoration.

Earlier, prior to the 18th century, the term “analemma” referred to any tool or method used in the construction of sundials. Now, the term “analemma” is used in conjunction with sundials to convert between apparent and mean solar time.

Analemmas are photographed by keeping a camera at a fixed location and orientation and taking multiple exposures throughout the year, always at the same clock-time.

.

Analemma posted by Giuseppe Donatiello

.

The above image is a photo of an analemma posted by Giuseppe Donatiello.

.

Analemma photo taken by Jack Fishburn in 1998–99.

.

The above is an afternoon analemma photo taken in 1998–99 by Jack Fishburn in Murray Hill, New Jersey, USA. The Bell Laboratories building is in the foreground.

Although the term “analemma” is used to refer to the Earth’s solar analemma, it can be applied to other celestial bodies as well.

.

RELATED ARTICLES

Origins of April Fool’s Day


Myself  

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

The joker symbolizes the practical jokes associated with April Fools’ Day. (PhotoObjects.net/Jupiterimages)

.

One of the most light-hearted days of the year is April Fools’ Day, sometimes called All Fools’ Day, celebrated every year on April 1.

On April Fools’ Day, people indulge in playing harmless practical jokes, for example, telling friends that their shoelaces are untied or sending them on so-called fools’ errands, and also spreading hoaxes. Both the jokes and their victims are labelled “April fools”. So, people indulging in playing April Fool jokes expose their prank by shouting “April Fool!“.

On this day some newspapers, magazines and other published media report fake stories, which are usually explained on the following day or printed below the news section in small letters like those found in some agreements.

Although April Fools’ Day or All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated by different cultures for several centuries no country has yet declared the day as a public holiday.

The exact origins of All Fools’ Day still remain a mystery.

The Hilaria

Some forerunners of April Fools’ Day, the custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbours, include the Roman festival of Hilaria.

The Hilaria (Latin “the cheerful ones“) were ancient Roman religious festivals celebrated on the March equinox to honour Cybele.

The term ” Hilaria” seems to have originally been a name which was given to any day or season of rejoicing, celebrated in Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises. According to Maximus the Confessor (c. 580 – August 13, 662), a Christian monk, theologian, and scholar, the Hilaria were, either private or public. If private, it is the day in which a person gets married, or a day when a son was born. If public, those days of public rejoicings decided by a new emperor which were devoted to general rejoicings and public sacrifices, and no one was allowed.

Some speculate that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

The first recorded association between April 1 and foolishness appeared around 1392, in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In The Prologue to the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale“, Chaucer tells the story of the vain cock Chauntecler who falls for the tricks of a fox. The narrator describes the tale as occurring:

When that the monthe in which the world bigan
That highte  March, whan God first maked man,
Was complet, and passed were also
Syn March bigan thritty dayes  and two

Unfortunately, the reference “Syn March bigan thritty dayes  and two” is ambiguous and worthless as historical evidence.

Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “32 March”, meaning April 1. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, namely, May 2nd, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381.

Whatever Chaucer may have meant to convey, we can not conclude, based on these few lines, that he was aware of a custom of playing pranks on April 1st.

Poisson d’vril

Poisson d’avril

.

In 1508, in a poem titled “Le livre de la deablerie” written by Eloy d’Amerval, a French choirmaster and composer might have a possible reference to April Fool’s Day. According to Wikipedia, it consists of “a dialogue between Satan and Lucifer, in which their nefarious plotting of future evil deeds is interrupted periodically by the author, who among other accounts of earthly and divine virtue, records useful information on contemporary musical practice.”

Though the poem would only be of interest to historians of music, it includes the line, “maquereau infâme de maintt homme et de mainte  femme, poisson d’vril.

The phrase “poisson d’vril” (April Fish) is the French term for an April Fool, a possible reference to the holiday when people were made fools for having paper fish placed on their backs to symbolize a gullible person or a young, easily caught fish.  However, it is unclear whether d’Amerval’s use of the term referred to April 1st specifically. He might have intended the phrase simply to mean a foolish person.

Eduard de Dene’s comical poem (1561)

In 1561, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene published a comical poem titled “Refereyn vp verzendekens dach / Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach” meaning (roughly) “Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April.” In this poem, a nobleman who hatches a plan to send his servant on absurd errands on April 1st, supposedly to help prepare for a wedding feast. In the closing line of each stanza, the servant says, “I am afraid… that you are trying to make me run a fool’s errand.

This is a fairly clear reference to a custom of playing practical jokes on April 1st. So, we can infer that April Fool’s Day dates back at least to the sixteenth century.

Because of this reference to poet Eduard de Dene and other vague French references, historians believe that April Fool’s Day must have originated in continental northern Europe and then spread to Britain.

The changeover from Julian Calendar to Gregorian Calendar

The Romans used a complicated lunar calendar, based on the phases of the moon. A group of people decided the addition and removal of days to keep this calendar in unison with the astronomical seasons, marked by equinoxes and solstices.

Julius Caesar consulted an Alexandrian astronomer named Sosigenes and in 45 BCE, created a more regulated civil solar calendar, based on the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. In this Julian calendar, a common year had 365 days divided into 12 months with every fourth a leap year with a leap day added to the month of February.

Today, the Gregorian calendar also known as the Western or Christian Calendar is the most widely used calendar in the world. In 1582, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563, some European Catholic countries such as France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain introduced the Gregorian calendar. However, many countries non-Catholic continued to use the Julian Calendar. Turkey was the last country to changeover officially to the Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1927, So, it took almost 300 years for all the countries to switch over to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian Calendar.

In the Middle Ages, most European towns celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25. In some areas of France, New Year’s Day was a week-long holiday ending on April 1. The use of January 1 as New Year’s Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

So, according to some historians, the April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582 when people who were slow to get the news of the changeover to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian Calendar, or failed to understand the new calendar. So, those who celebrated the New Year’s Day on some other dates other January 1, became victims of the butt of jokes and hoaxes of those who celebrated New Year’s Day on January 1.

Escape of Duke of Lorraine and his wife on April 1, 1632

According to a legend, the Duke of Lorraine and his wife were imprisoned at Nantes. On April 1, 1632, disguising themselves as peasants, they escaped from the prison by walking through the front gate.  A person who recognized them told the guards about it. The guards thought the warning was a “Poisson d’vril joke and scoffed at the person who reported it.

John Aubrey (1686)

In 1686, John Aubrey, an English antiquarian, collected notes about popular customs and superstitions, as research for a contemplated work to be titled, Remains of Gentilism and Judaism. His collected notes were published posthumously. He wrote, “Fooles holy day. We observe it on ye first of April. And so it is kept in Germany everywhere.”

So by the late seventeenth century, April Fool’s Day had definitely spread to Britain.

Washing the Lions prank (1968)

The tradition of keeping animals at the Tower of London began in the 13th century when Emperor Frederic II sent three leopards to King Henry III. In the following years, elephants, lions, and even a polar bear trained to catch fish in the Thames were added to the collection.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a German visitor wrote, “all variety of creatures in the Tower including three lionesses, one lion of great size called Edward VI from his having been born in that reign; a tyger; a lynx; a wolf excessively old… there is besides a porcupine, and an eagle.”

At that time, a popular traditional prank to be played on April Fool’s Day was sending gullible victims to the Tower of London to see the “washing of the lions” (a non-existent ceremony).

On April 2, 1698, a British newspaper Dawks’s News-Letter reported: “Yesterday being the first of April, several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.”

Examples of this “washing of the lions” prank occurred as late as the mid-nineteenth century. For more about the history of this prank, see the article: Washing the Lions.

.

Washing The Lions (Source: Hoaxes.org)

.

The above is an image of a card printed by the late Albert Smith and distributed among his friends. It’s hard to say whether any of these cards were sold as he did not authorise the transaction nor whether any person tried to use these cards at the non-existent “White Gate.”

By the eighteenth century, one of the most popular outing for visitors to London was to visit the Tower of London to see the menagerie. However, the population of the animals declined during the early nineteenth century. In 1834, the few remaining animals were transferred to the London Zoo opened to the public in 1828 in an area of Regent’s Park.

In the 18th century, April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain. In 1708, a correspondent wrote to the British Apollo magazine asking, “Whence proceeds the custom of making April Fools?

In Scotland, it turned into a traditional two-day event that began with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phoney errands. Gowk is a word that denotes a  cuckoo bird, a symbol for a fool.

.

Tailie Day

.

This was followed by Tailie Day, a prank played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.

Nowadays, newspapers, radio and TV stations, and Web sites have participated in the April 1 tradition creating intricate April Fools’ Day hoaxes by reporting outrageous fictional claims to fool their audiences.

In 1957, BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees. In fact, many viewers fell for this report.

In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a cooked-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour.

In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people by announcing that it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell.

In 1998, Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” and many clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.

.

RELATED ARTICLES

Jesus the Exorcist, the Healer, …


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

 

Jesus and Beelzebul – Luke 11:14-23

Jesus was driving out a demon [that was] mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.

Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.”

Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.

But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.

And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.

If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out?

Therefore they will be your judges.

But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.

When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

The Jews of Jesus’ period believed that in addition to God and his material creation, there existed a world of spirits, some good and some evil, who interacted with human beings; and that the evil spirits harm human beings and also lead them astray into disobeying God and his commandments.

Banishing Satan and the allied spirits under his control from the world, and the destruction of his rule over human beings becomes part of Jewish Eschatology. In continuity with the eschatological prophecies of the prophets, there were two distinguished periods of human history. It asserts that the present period of history is under the control of Satan, or a synonymous eponym, but will end with the approach of the time of eschatological salvation.

In Jewish understanding, human beings are capable of having some limited control over Satan and his allied spirits and have the ability in certain instances to counteract or reverse their malevolent influence by having extensive knowledge about them and using the proper skills or rituals to expel and control them. Jesus, a Jew, accepts this idea and sees his own period in history as the period in which the Kingdom of God would replace the Kingdom of Satan.

Jesus was known not only as a healer but also to a certain extent as an exorcist. These two categories – healing and exorcism – overlap to some extent because possession by a demon can often manifest itself as physical ailments in such persons. In many instances, a person who has been exorcised is said to be healed.

In the Synoptic Gospels, we see a lot of instances of exorcism by Jesus. Here, I cite a few:

1. Luke 11:14-23 = Matthew 12:22-30: In Matthew and Luke, the Beelzebul controversy is precipitated by Jesus’ driving out a demon from a man.

2. Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:31-37: At the synagogue in Capernaum, the evil spirit possessing a man recognizes Jesus and cries out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”  Jesus drives out the evil spirit saying “Quiet! Come out of him!.” Before departing with a loud cry, the unclean spirit shakes the man violently. The witnesses to this event are amazed that Jesus has authority over evil spirits.

3. Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39, and Matthew 8:28-34: Jesus heals a demoniac man (two men in Matthew) in the territory of Gadarenes (Gerasenes).

Jesus’ exorcism begins even before he actually meets the demonized. When Jesus does come face to face with the possessed man, the demon(s) within him is agitated and cries out in alarm “What have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me!” (Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28). For he had ordered the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (It had taken hold of him many times, and he used to be bound with chains and shackles as a restraint, but he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into deserted places.) (Luke 8:29)

The demon possessing the man is called “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. The demons plead with Jesus to allow them to enter into a herd of swine that was feeding there on the hillside. Jesus lets them, and the possessed herd of swine rush down the steep bank into the Sea of Galilee and are drowned.

4. Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43a and Matthew 17:14-20: An evil spirit possessing a boy causes him to be deaf and dumb and sometimes tries to harm him by throwing him into fire or water. Jesus exorcises the boy after his disciples tried unsuccessfully to do so.  Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. (Mark 9:26-27)

Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:19-20)

5. Matt 9:32-34: Jesus heals a dumb demoniac; and when the demon was driven out the mute person spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.  But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”

6. Luke 13:10-17: In a synagogue, on a Sabbath day, Jesus heals a crippled woman who was there for eighteen years. She was bent over by the evil spirit and was completely incapable of standing erect.

7. Mark 7:24-30, Matthew 15:21-28: The daughter of a woman who was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth (a Canaanite in Matthew) is possessed by an unclean spirit. Jesus heals the girl, but reluctantly, and says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” meaning that he has come to bring deliverance to the Jews, insofar as the benefits of the Kingdom of God belong to them – “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

8. Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2: Out of the women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary Magdalene is one out of whom Jesus cast seven demons.

9. Mark 3:20-22: Jesus himself is accused of being possessed. The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

The saying about the ‘plundering of the strong man’ comes in the context of Jesus’ self-defence against the accusation that he casts out demons by the power of Beelzebul.  There are two different versions of the same tradition, quite dissimilar to each other: Mark 3:27 = Matt 12:29; Luke 11:21-22.

.

Matt 12:29
How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.
Mark 3:27
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.
Luke 11:21-22
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.

.

The Gospel of Thomas has a shorter version of this saying: “Jesus said, ‘One cannot enter a strong person’s house and take it by force without tying his hands. Then one can loot his house’.” (35)

So, all these different versions boil down to this: In order to plunder the house of a strong man one must be stronger than he is; only then can one carry away his goods.

Here, Jesus is speaking allegorically: the strong man is Satan and the house is his kingdom or sphere of influence. Jesus is telling that an entity stronger than Satan has come and is in the process of plundering his kingdom, which is an ambagious reference to himself. The booty taken by the stronger man represents those who were demonized but whom Jesus freed from Satan’s influence.

To recap, by the power Jesus has over demons, the reign of Satan is in the process of being replaced by the Kingdom of God.

.

.

Jim Reeves » Satan can’t hold me

When the trumpet has sounded and at judgement, we stand
And the Lord, up in heaven, takes you by the hand
If for things I’ve done wrong I am sent down below
Satan can’t hold me this much I know

Satan can’t hold me, nobody can
Angel or devil, spirit or man
Through the valleys of darkness, I’ll come to your side
Your love, my beacon, my love, my guide

I will climb over mountains, fly up in the blue
I’ll swim every river that keeps me from you
Till that wonderful day, we’re together again
Satan can’t hold me, true love must win

Satan can’t hold me, nobody can
Angel or devil, spirit or man
Through the valleys of darkness, I’ll come to your side
Your love, my beacon, my love, my guide

.

Chennai: Oil Spill at Ennore Port Blackens Beaches and Affects Fishing


Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

Oil spill on the shores of Chennai (Source: indiatimes.com)
Oil spill on the shores of Chennai (Source: indiatimes.com)

.

A large quantum of thick and dark oil washed ashore from Bharathiyar Nagar beach in Ernavur to Marina Light House in Chennai. Tonnes of tar-like thick black oil has polluted several square kilometres of sea in the Bay of Bengal.

According to fishermen, tar-like thick oil started to collect near the shore from Saturday evening. Fishermen around Marina complained that they found it difficult to navigate their boats in the sea because of the thick oil deposits. The fishermen are demanding compensation for loss of livelihood.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials said the spill could be the result of the accidental collision of two ships, the inbound vessel MT Dawn Kanchipuram and the outbound vessel LPG/CBW Maple in the wee hours on Saturday at Ennore port’s anchorage.

“There was a collision between a LPG tanker vessel, BW Maple, Isle of Man flagship, and vessel MT Kancheepuram, an oil and chemicals tanker, on the outskirts of Ennore at 4 am (on Saturday). So, this could be a result of that. As it is so thick, we are not able to find out what type of oil it is. We are conducting an investigation,” said a senior official.

While a statement from Kamarajar Port claims that there was no damage to the environment, or casualty or injury, the Times of India reported that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Darya Ship Management and Kamarajar Port have been held responsible for damage to the environment.

The New Indian Express reports:

“The biggest challenge was that both Kamarajar Port and the vessel that caused the disaster remained in denial, leaving the official machinery clueless about what they were dealing with. Minister of State (Shipping) Pon Radhakrishnan visited the port and observed that ‘there were no spills/sheens in the area’, claims a release from the port.”

By Sunday morning the dark thick stagnant oil spread southward about 25km from the outskirts of Ennore where the accident occurred polluting several beaches, including the iconic Marina Beach in Chennai and beyond.

Now, the oil has converted sandy beaches, including the Marina, into a slushy ground, making it inaccessible to the public. Oily sludge. coats the rocks on the coast.

The mild smell of salt and fish that wafted in the air in the neighbourhoods along the beach has been replaced with a heavy, pungent emanation of petroleum and tar.

Hordes of fish and many turtles and hatchlings covered with thick oil were found dead near Ernavour and some were found washed ashore at Marina Beach.

According to environmental experts, the spill could have a long-lasting adverse impact on marine life. The shoreline is known for Olive Ridley turtles which nest on local beaches between January and April every year.

.

The ill-equipped pollution response teams of the Indian Coast Guard are grappling with the oil spill (Source: ndtv.com)
The ill-equipped pollution response teams of the Indian Coast Guard are grappling with the oil spill (Source: ndtv.com)

.

Now, the ill-equipped pollution response teams of the Indian Coast Guard are carrying out an impossible mopping operation. As the Indian Coast Guard lacks the technical expertise, the authorities have invited private companies to bid for the cleanup work.

.

RELATED ARTICLES

Oil Spill Near Chennai Blackens Beaches, Fishing Community Affected (ndtv.com)

Chennai: Fuel spill at Ennore Port spreads to Marina Beach, workers use buckets to scoop out oil (scroll.in)

Authorities Struggle To Contain Oil Spill Three Days After Two Vessels Collide Off Chennai Coast  (indiatimes.com)

Oil Spill In Ennore Has Now Covered Chennai’s Marina Beach, Experts Fear Severe Damage To Environment (huffingtonpost.in)

.