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Our Ten Favorite Facebook Groups

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Until yesterday, 'I Read Mental Floss' was our favorite Facebook Group. Then Evan Schiller showed us these.

1. Group Name:

"I feel bad when I see kids on a leash"
Description: In the old days, leashes were the domain of domesticated animals and the occasional dominatrix. Not anymore. Today's parents simply strap a harness across their kid's chest, grab the reins, and hope to keep their offspring on course. A suburban Iditarod. This group takes issue with the burgeoning child/leash phenomenon. They feel bad for the kids. You know who needs the sympathy? The leash. The only thing keeping some hyperactive little snot off the third-rail is a measly piece of nylon. That's a great deal of pressure to put on an inanimate object. The group purports, "if I was put on a leash I would be scarred for life." That's a bit dramatic, and actually, scientifically flawed. Scarred for life is what happens when an unwieldy child runs into the middle of the road when he hears the ice cream truck coming. Truth be told, when one considers the next logical step in terms of child rearing "“ the taser "“ a leash seems like, well"¦ child's play.
Members: 4,142
Best Wall Post: "My mom used to attach this green slinky-like thing to both of our wrists when I was really little. I will never forgive her."

2. Group Name:

"I cheated at 'Book It!' to get free pizza"
book-it.jpgDescription: This group is for those who participated in Pizza Hut's "Book It!" reading program in elementary school and cheated the system to get free pizza. According to Pizza Hut's website, "Book It! motivates children to read by rewarding their reading accomplishments with praise, recognition and pizza"¦ Goals are based on reading ability. Number of books, number of pages, or number of minutes "“ they all work." While the program purports remarkable success, including a whopping 22 million participants, this Facebook group, and others like it, reveal a much more sinister reality. Reading for the sake of reading has been usurped by pretending to read to get free pizza. And they say Americans are fat and stupid. Go figure.
Members: 113
Best Wall Post: "I remember one time I needed to read one more book so on the sheet I made up some book and when it came to the author I looked around the room and saw some civil war books and came up with the name 'Abraham Wall Lee.' It was such BS now that I look back on it, but that pizza was worth it."

3. Group Name:

"The only reason I went to elementary school was to play Oregon Trail"

oregon_trail2.jpgDescription: In 1985, when Oregon Trail was released on floppy disk, the world changed forever. The days of learning about Manifest Destiny and real Oregon Trail were finally behind us. More important matters, like shooting buffalo and learning to ford virtual rivers, were quickly taking precedence. Rather than bother children with actual historical events, Oregon Trail brought some life's most valuable lessons to light. For instance, according to the group, "typhoid and cholera really aren't that big of a deal" and, "if you lose two family members, 3 oxen, and 400 bullets while fording the river, it is better than paying some Indian $5 to help." And we ask, "Is our children learning?" The answer is decidedly "yes."
Members: 9,864
Best Wall Post: "JIMMY'S GOT TYPHOID!"

4. Group Name:

'I love it when bus drivers wave to each other'

Description: The most interesting part of this group is found its description, which reads like a lazily constructed haiku with little regard for syllabilic constraints:

every time
the driver give each other a little wave
and its amazing

busdriver.jpgThe connection between bus drivers is magical. Like a pitcher's ability to communicate with his catcher through a furtive nod and the faintest twitch of a finger, bus drivers too have a secret, unspoken code. If you've ever witnessed a bus driver selflessly make room for his comrade, waiting patiently as another bus merges into traffic, it becomes clear that bus drivers have attained nirvana. They are completely at peace, utterly gracious, brazenly benevolent. If bus drivers ruled the world there would be no war.
Members: 1,057
Best Wall Post: "...waving at bus drivers when not a bus driver is forbidden in the UK. you would die....seriously."

5. Group Name:

"If this group reaches 15k people, Kevin and I will have a pinecone eat-off!"

pinecones.jpgDescription: Once upon a time Facebook was only open to a select group of well-mannered college students. It was a tame, sterile place. "Poking" was considered risqué. But times have changed. And it has become increasingly apparent that Facebook is devolving into barbarism. It's an open-source free-for-all, sullied by graffiti walls, super pokes, and groups like this one. The group, and the high-speed pinecone-eating contest it sponsors, is both a testament to this shift, and proof that society has officially lost its way. The rules of the eat-off state: "5 cones each, 30 minutes on the clock. First one to finish his lineup of cones is the victor (unless time runs out, then furthest along at time wins)." Sickening. Just sickening. Now if you'll excuse me, Fear Factor is on.
Members: 1,450
Best Wall Post: "I don't know who Kevin is, but anyone willing to eat pinecones deserves me to back them up!"

6. Group Name:

"Chairman Miaow & Herman Gerbils"
catgun.jpgDescription: There's something to be said for irreverent puns. I'm not sure what, but decidedly, there is. If you haven't yet found a connection between cuddly domesticated animals and sadistic, imperialist dictators, you just aren't looking hard enough. This group is all about forging that all-important link. According to the group's mantra, "you get extra points for the more amusing the animal and the more controversial the bastion of evil. And vice-versa." Well, thank goodness. At first I thought there was no point to the whole charade.
Members: 18
Best Wall Post: "A little tenuous, but a fish/roman emperor searching for his father: Finding Nero?"

7. Group Name:

"Every Slinky I owned got Jacked Up at Some Point"
slinky.jpgDescription: Unfortunately, astute observations only go so far. The group's premise is spot on, but they offer little by way of solutions. Make no mistake, the slinky is the tip of the iceberg. Maybe I'm paranoid, but in my humble opinion, a host of modern-day products are alive. If not, explain how my headphone wires spontaneously become a useless, bewildering muddle whenever I leave them unattended. The same thing happens to wires behind the TV, or a computer. They're like unruly jungle vines. How can it be that wires, untouched for months, do this?
Members: 197
Best Wall Post: "Slinky + Escalator = Endless fun"

8. Group Name:

"Air Bud gave me false expectations about my dog's basketball skills"
airBud.jpgDescription: Thanks to film and television, I've grown to despise my dog's ineptitude. He's mind-numbingly naïve. For instance, while my pooch is busy chasing his tail, as if it posed some real and present danger to his life, Lassie is off saving lives and making Timmy like the happiest kid on the face of the earth. But when Air Bud came along, my shame sunk to new lows. It took me the better part of my summer vacation in third grade to teach my dog to roll over. But Air Bud can dunk with his nose? That's bulls*#t. Disney has been doing this for years. In fact, when you take a step back, real life is pretty terrible compared to a Disney movie. Coupled with the whole "Be Like Mike" charade, which convinced thousands of gullible children that Gatorade was the key to athletic greatness, Air Bud more or less ruined my relationship with my dog and destroyed my aspirations of making it to the NBA.
Members: 134
Best Wall Post: "I used to try and try when I was little to get my dog to play some b-ball. It never worked. Thanks so much, you smug little golden retriever."

9. Group Name:

rudy.jpg"1,000,000 Strong For Rudy Giuliani"

Description: They've got a ways to go.
Members: 4
Best Wall Post: N/A. Apparently, Rudy's supporters are too busy with the recruitment effort to post comments on the wall. [Rudy has plenty of other Facebook groups. But this was obviously our favorite.]

10. Group Name:

"Bring Back Captain Planet to Stop Global Warming"
planet.jpgDescription: Captain Planet can pretty much do anything. He can fly, he has super strength and the ability to blow hurricane force winds, he's capable of telekinesis, and he can even change shape and transmute matter. The only thing he can't do is tolerate ungodly carbon emissions. And who can blame him? The earth is falling apart. The children of the world need a hero, not a monotone former Vice President. Today's children worship purple dinosaurs, and some sponge that lives in pineapple under the sea. What kind of perverted message does this send to young people? No one can live in a pineapple under the sea. And if they did, they'll soon be extinct because Captain Planet is off the air.
Members: 7,555
Best Wall Post: "I didn't realize 'Heart' was an element."

If you feel compelled to join one of these groups, let us know which one. If you'd like to come clean about cheating at Book It! to get free pizza, we'll support you. And stay tuned for a mental_floss Facebook application. For now, join our growing support group "I Read Mental Floss."

Evan Schiller is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com. He recently started a blog called Conventional Stupidity.

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Gramercy Pictures
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entertainment
20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers Movies
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Gramercy Pictures

Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. John Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’s 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS' WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating, “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that features a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination).

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. “The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, ‘Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that.”

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen brothers are plenty fond of The Dude; after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

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Art
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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