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How the World Celebrates Dad

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If you own a television or have walked by any store selling either hardware, sporting goods or electronics, then you know this Sunday is Father's Day. Father's Day has come a long way since its modern inception in 1908, when the towns of Fairmont, West Virginia, and Spokane, Washington, celebrated the first and second official Father's Days within two weeks of each other that June. The holiday caught on and became widely celebrated in the United States, though it was not until 1972 that Richard Nixon established it as an official holiday, and Madison Avenue did to it what Hallmark did to Valentine's Day.

But as Americans, we can't take credit for Father's Day. In every inhabited corner of the globe, people have developed unique ways of thanking Dear ol' Dad for raising us, guiding us, and for simply being there. So this year, when you're thinking of what to get for Dear ol' Dad, take a look at what the rest of the world does for their fathers.

Candy, meat, and self-imposed acts of humiliation

In late August or early September, the Nepalese celebrate Gokarna Aunsi. On this day, grateful sons and daughters present their fathers with traditional sweets and slabs of meat—a perfect gift for any red blooded American.

Those whose fathers are no longer among the living spend this day worshiping the Gokarneswor Mahadev, a sacred shrine to the Hindu lord Shiva. The shrine is in the village of Gokarna, five miles east of Kathmandu, and is said to have a strong connection with the souls of the dead. At the shrine, the fatherless pilgrims give gifts of grain and coins to the priests who live there, since the priests have no children of their own.

And what Father's Day would be complete without showing your old man that he's still the boss? Nepalese sons do this by rubbing dad's feet with their head in an act of veneration. If that's not love, then I don't know what is.

Dad not crazy about meat? Do what the Sicilians do.
March 19th is St. Joseph's Day, and since Joseph was the most important father in the Catholic Church, it's also a day for honoring dad. For Italians, this means an ample feast. However, March 19th almost always falls in the middle of Lent, when orthodox Catholics abstain from meat, so "St. Joseph's Table," as it is called, is entirely without meat. Families gather around the table and eat all manner of bread, vegetables, egg dishes and St. Joseph's Pasta, which consists of spaghetti in a red sauce often with anchovies or sardines and topped with bread crumbs representing sawdust (a nod to Joseph's profession as a carpenter).

In Sicily, fava beans are also an important part of the festivities. As legend has it, the mediaeval Sicilians survived a massive drought and famine by praying to St. Joseph, who in his infinite grace pulled some strings with the Big Guy and saved the Sicilians with...yeah, you guessed it...fava beans. However, my sources inform me that there was no Chianti to speak of.

Fire up more than just the grill
March 19th also marks Father's Day in Valencia, Spain, where fathers are celebrated with the most awesome gift of all: FIRE!

Carpenters in feudal Spain saved their wood shavings and sawdust all year round until St. Joseph's Day, when they would construct a massive bonfire in the center of town which would burn into the wee hours of the morning while the townspeople danced and drank around it. This celebration evolved into the more modern custom practiced today. Each year, in early March, great statues of wood and wax are erected throughout the city of Valencia. Statues depicting everything from life, local heroes and political leaders, to the fantastic and supernatural. Designed and built by local artists, the statues attract tourists and onlookers to the city as the night of the festival approaches. At the stroke of midnight on the night of St. Joseph, the statues are ignited amid parade marches and elaborate firework displays.

You can recreate your own Valencia Fire Statue with simple household items, if you are so inclined. But be sure to keep a water hose handy. The only reason that the town of Valencia hasn't yet gone up in flames is that the building are, without exception, constructed from granite blocks. Your father's house, regrettably, is not.

Dads gone wild (and non-dads, too)
In Deutschland, Vatertag, the solemn day of family togetherness closely resembling our own Father's Day, is rivaled by the concurrent Herrentag, or Men's Day. This bawdry affair is feted by groups of men who load small wagons with beer, schnaps and sausages and lead drunken processions through town or out into the woods. Despite opposition from many—German Family Minister, Ursula von der Leyer stated recently, "I've had enough. I think it's awful...Fathers should not be drunk in front of their children"—the inebriate debauchery of Men's Day still draws a crowd of merry pranksters each year, though few of them are actually fathers.

So, this Sunday, when you're on your way to see dad, why not stop off and pick up a case of cold ones, a Radio Flyer and a Hillshire Farms sampler pack? It's sure to beat that rotary sander you got him last year.

Give the gift of Involuntary Captivity
The Serbian Father's Day is held on the Sunday before Christmas, part of the three week run-up to the Nativity along with Children's Day and Mother's Day. The tradition on Father's Day, or Ocevi, is to tie dad to an object from which he cannot be released until he offers a ransom in exchange for his freedom. The object could be anything: a bowling ball, car tire or even the upstairs radiator. Imagine the possibilities. Early Sunday morning, Daddy Dearest finds himself locked in the bathroom, the door firmly barred shut, trapped helplessly on his porcelain throne with only the sincerest love of his children to keep him company until he finally concedes to pay off your student loans and that credit card you maxed out buying all those anime DVD's.

Giving blood and taking animals
In Thailand, the King's Birthday also serves as National Father's Day. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, born on December 5, 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, became the ninth king of Thailand's Chakri Dynasty on June 9, 1946. Each year on his birthday, the people of Thailand don yellow garments—yellow being the traditional Thai color representing Monday, the day of the king's birth—and gather in the street for parades and dancing while fireworks burn through the night sky.

Other celebrations include acts of charity and honor, the most distinct being the donation of blood and the liberation of captive animals. "Happy Father's Day, Dad. Oh, where's Bandit? you ask. I freed him as an act of merit to honor you. Here's a pint of B positive. Yeah, I knew you'd be thrilled. I love you too, Dad."

Putting dad to work
ISS_Usachev_290.jpgAnd what would Father's Day be without unnecessarily complicated gadgets? In 2001, Yuri Usachev, cosmonaut and commander of the International Space Station, received a talking picture frame, a gift from his 12-year-old daughter, Evgenia, while in orbit.

The gift was made possible by RadioShack, who, with the help of several of Commander Usachev's colleagues, filmed the presentation of the gift for a television commercial, which aired for the first time during ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball on May 27, 2001. The talking frame, which has since spawned the even more mind-boggling advancement, the talking greeting card, was pocket-sized and made of black plastic with a hinge in the center. When opened, it revealed a small photo on one side and a speaker and microphone on the other. Evgenia's message to her father: "Hey dad, we are wishing you good fortune and success in your job, and good relations with the crew." Proving that, even on Father's Day, even in the deep vacuum of space, poor ol' Pop just can't get a break from work.

Timothy Mercer is an occasional contributor to mental_floss.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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