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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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#TBT
Paw Enforcement: A History of McGruff the Crime Dog
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Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Jack Keil, executive creative director of the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency, was stuck in a Kansas City airport at three in the morning when he started thinking about Smokey Bear. Smokey was the furred face of forest fire prevention, an amiable creature who cautioned against the hazards of unattended campfires or errant cigarette butts. Everyone, it seemed, knew Smokey and heeded his words.

In 1979, Keil’s agency had been tasked with coming up with a campaign for the recently-instituted National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), a nonprofit organization looking to educate the public about crime prevention. If Keil could create a Smokey for their mission, he figured he would have a hit. He considered an elephant who could stamp out crime, or a rabbit who was hopping mad about illegal activity.

A dog seemed to fit. Dogs bit things, and the NCPC was looking to take a bite out of crime. Keil sketched a dog reminiscent of Snoopy with a Keystone Cop-style hat.

Back at the agency, people loved the idea but hated the dog. In a week’s time, the cartoon animal would morph into McGruff, the world-weary detective who has raised awareness about everything from kidnapping to drug abuse. While he no longer looked like Snoopy, he was about to become just as famous.

In 1979, the public service advertising nonprofit the Ad Council held a meeting to discuss American paranoia. Crime was a hot button issue, with sensational reports about drugs, home invasions, and murders taking up the covers of major media outlets like Newsweek and TIME. Surveys reported that citizens were concerned about crime rates and neighborhood safety. Respondents felt helpless to do anything, since more law enforcement meant increased taxes.

To combat public perception, the Ad Council wanted to commit to an advertising campaign that would act as a preventive measure. Crime could not be stopped, but the feeling was that it could be dented with more informed communities. Maybe a clean park would be less inviting to criminals; people might need to be reminded to lock their doors.

What people did not need was a lecture. So the council enlisted Dancer Fitzgerald Sample to organize a campaign that promoted awareness in the most gentle way possible. Keil's colleagues weighed in on his dog idea; someone suggested that the canine be modeled after J. Edgar Hoover, another saw a Superman-esque dog that would fly in to interrupt crime. Sherry Nemmers and Ray Krivascy offered an alternative take: a dog wearing a trench coat and smoking a cigar, modeled in part after Peter Falk’s performance as the rumpled TV detective Columbo.

Keil had designs on getting Falk to voice the animated character, but the actor’s methodical delivery wasn’t suited to 30-second commercials, so Keil did it himself. His scratchy voice lent an authoritarian tone, but wasn't over-the-top.

The agency ran a contest on the back of cereal boxes to name the dog. “Sherlock Bones” was the most common submission, but "McGruff"—which was suggested by a New Orleans police officer—won out.

Armed with a look, a voice, and a name, Nemmers arranged for a series of ads to run in the fall of 1980. In the spots, McGruff was superimposed over scenes of a burglary and children wary of being kidnapped by men in weather-beaten cars. He advised people to call the police if they spotted something suspicious—like strangers taking off with the neighbor’s television or sofa—and to keep their doors locked. He sat at a piano and sang “users are losers” in reference to drug-abusing adolescents. (The cigar had been scrapped.)

Most importantly, the NCPC—which had taken over responsibility for McGruff's message—wanted the ads to have what the industry dubbed “fulfillment.” At the end, McGruff would advise viewers to write to a post office box for a booklet on how to prevent crime in their neck of the woods.

A lot of people did just that. More than 30,000 booklets went out during the first few months the ads aired. McGruff’s laconic presence was beginning to take off.

By 1988, an estimated 99 percent of children ages six to 12 recognized McGruff, putting him in Ronald McDonald territory. He appeared on the ABC series Webster, in parades, and in thousands of personal appearances around the country, typically with a local police officer under the suit. (The appearances were not without danger: Some dogs apparently didn't like McGruff and could get aggressive at the sight of him.)

As McGruff aged into the 1990s, his appearances grew more sporadic. The NCPC began targeting guns and drugs and wasn’t sure the cartoon dog was a good fit, so his appearances were limited to the end of some ad spots. By the 2000s, law enforcement cutbacks meant fewer cops in costume, and a reduced awareness of the crime-fighting canine. When Keil retired, an Iowa cop named Steve Parker took over McGruff's voice duties.

McGruff is still in action today, aiding in the NCPC’s efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse, internet crimes, and identity theft. The organization estimates that more than 4000 McGruffs are in circulation, though at least one of them failed to live up to the mantle. In 2014, a McGruff performer named John Morales pled guilty to possession of more than 1000 marijuana plants and a grenade launcher. He’s serving 16 years in prison.

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Animals
Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
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iStock

Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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