13 Cracked.com articles that I highly recommend

There is a reason that I cite cracked.com on the resources page. Say what you will about some of their more frilly, fluffy content, they actually do a really good job of being like Jon Stewart, without the video component.

So, here are 13 articles from Cracked (in no particular order) that I have read and loved over the years, and I will include samples from most of them (in case you need convincing):

1. “5 Famous Actors Who Hate Their Most Iconic Roles

While you might be most interested to read the admittedly very amusing comments by Robert Pattinson about the Twilight film series, or Sean Connery’s comments about James Bond, this is the part of the article that got me:

Sure, [Stanley] Kowalski is a coarse, arrogant prick with a hot temper that quickly turns violent, but [Marlon] Brando made him a sexy coarse, arrogant prick. Of course, not only was this never Brando’s intention, but the idea of Kowalski as a sex symbol actually made him sick. He couldn’t stand the character. Remember, this is the guy who sent a Native American woman to decline an Academy Award on his behalf to make a statement about racism in Hollywood. He was as dirty a hippie as they come.

I didn’t know much about Marlon Brando before reading that, but that instantly made me a fan of him as a person for his morals/values, for life. To be in the position to have the opportunity and to actually follow through… he gets a standing ovation from me.

And of course, video of the Academy Awards rejection is on YouTube.

2. “6 Sexist Video Game Problems Even Bigger Than the Breasts

Some recent games have featured independent, well-developed characters with amazing powers, intriguing pasts, and mental off-switches activated by ball sweat. It’s like the player has kryptonite testicles. BioShock Infinite‘s Elizabeth was born with the ability to tear portals in time and space, then learned to pick locks anyway, then sat patiently in prison until a penis arrived to save her. Ellie from The Last of Us is immune to an apocalyptic virus, learns new weapons faster than Neo, and has stabbed more enemies to death than Wolverine. But as soon as the guy turns up, she dissolves into tears and nursing.

I’m pleased to see that the world of video games has slowly been evolving to be more female friendly in recent years (and I know multiple women who praised Dragon Age for this, though even it still wasn’t perfect), but I also still hear stories from other friends and strangers alike of macho boyfriends still not getting why video games are sexist. The good news is that the times will keep changing, and eventually these guys will either be forced to get a clue, or will be ejected from their own community for archaic thinking.

3. “6 Famous Documentaries That Were Shockingly Full of Crap

I love me a good documentary, and I can admit to being sucked in by well-produced and well-edited documentaries that have later been called into serious question. I’ve also been in debates before about “is it OK to be sensationalist if you are ultimately drawing attention to an important issue that might otherwise remain ignored?”. My gut says yes, but logically I can understand how this is problematic. The truth should be able to stand on its own right? Well, maybe not, after all there is the adage “a lie travels all the way around the world before the truth has even finished putting on its pants”. One such example of a now hotly contested documentary is Super Size Me by Morgan Spurloch. From the article:

Here’s the thing: No one has been able to replicate Spurlock’s results, and even basic math disputes the claim that his McDiet consisted of 5,000 calories a day.

I haven’t got a lot to say about this specifically, but I recommend reading the rest of it. The article also takes a look at the documentary “Waiting for Superman”, about education reform.

5. “5 Outrageous Lies Companies Are Legally Allowed to Tell You

With a title like that, how can you NOT click on it, right?

The big assumption we all make is that while every ad contains some bullshit, the basic facts have to be true. Like, what the product looks like and the gist of what it does. After all, there is little room to lie when your essential statement is, say, “It’s a phone. You can call with it and take photos.” But multiple companies have made the argument — in court — that not only do their ads not have to be factual, but only an idiot would think they were.

For example, when Coca-Cola was marketing their line of Vitaminwater by promising the stuff would “boost your immune system” and “help fight free radicals,” someone pointed out that the stuff was effectively sugar water. Coke responded that they were completely shocked that anyone thought their drink was healthy, or in their words: “No consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking that Vitaminwater is a healthy beverage.”

That’s right. Companies have gone to court for the right to lie to you. This is why you cannot dispute the fact that education of the general public is paramount, because the less you know, the less you can make informed decisions for yourself in regards to your personal health and wellbeing. Go read the article, inform yourself, thank Cracked for bringing it to our attention.

6. “The 4 Types of People on Welfare Nobody Talks About

This one is kind of hard to pick a specific quote from, but I still definitely think it’s worth a read. To me, it’s about seeing another side or perspective of an issue that you might not have seen before that can inform your opinion more completely. I’ve been on government assistance (twice now, both times after suddenly losing my job through no fault of my own), and I’ve also been at the other end, having a well-paying job and plenty of “disposable income”. Ultimately I feel I’m glad a system such as Welfare exists for those who truly need it, but logically I can’t argue that some people abuse the system, and get away with it.

7. “The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All-Time

Another fascinating doozy of a read. I’d happily quote from every example but that wouldn’t be fair to Cracked. Here’s the one that I most distinctly remember:

We’re constantly reassured that airline travel is perfectly safe, and they do have the stats to back it up. But airlines have been in financial trouble since before the economy went bad (their problems go back to 9/11), and what they don’t tell you is the ways in which the airlines sometimes gamble your life against their bottom line.

For instance? How about when they pressure pilots to take on just enough fuel to make their destination, against the pilots’ protest? Extra fuel, you see, adds weight to the plane, so it makes the trip more expensive. And what do you need that extra juice for, anyway? Well, in April 2008, an airline captain complained that, after weather conditions slowed his flight to JFK, he asked for more fuel but was denied, and only just made it to the airport without crash-landing.

It wasn’t an isolated incident; unions are complaining that pilots are being ranked and stigmatized by their companies according to how much surplus fuel they take on, pressuring them to take maverick risks and try to get across the Atlantic on the fumes from an oil-stained rag.

I haven’t been on a plane since I was like, 5 years old, but I do want to visit a few places on other continents and this is a little disconcerting to read. Again, they have the successful flight record, but still, food for thought.

8. “5 Mind-Blowing Facts Nobody Told You About Guns

This is another one that stuck in my memory very distinctly, both because it’s a really morbidly interesting bit of historical fact, but also because it ties into a larger and more difficult issue:

The reasonable person will reply, “But that’s not saying anything about guns, Cracked — if depressed people want to kill themselves, they’ll just find another way!”

Actually … no, they won’t. Whether guns are legal or not, whether you believe in gun control or not, here’s the most important reason you’ll ever hear for not keeping one in your home. It has to do with ovens.

In the first half of the 20th century, ovens in England used to burn coal gas, which happened to be completely lethal in concentrated doses and was thus the preferred way to commit suicide. By the late 1950s, sticking your head in the oven accounted for nearly half of all suicides committed in England. By the early 1970s, these ovens had been phased out, so nobody was surprised to see coal gas fall out of the top ten British suicide methods (one of Cracked.com’s least popular recurring articles). So what did all of those suicidal people do instead? In a startling number of cases, they just went right on living. The suicide rate dropped by a third, and it never went back up.

Wait, really? The decision to off yourself is kind of a big one, isn’t it? It’s not the sort of thing you just wait to do when the opportunity arises and your schedule opens up. Yet you can find plenty of examples of people being inconvenienced right the hell down from the ledge. Adding a suicide barrier to a bridge in Washington lowered not just the number of suicides that occurred on that bridge, but the overall suicide rate (meaning those people didn’t just go find another bridge to jump from). A study of more than 500 Golden Gate Bridge jumpers who were stopped in the act found that 94 percent didn’t try it again.

Suicides, it turns out, are often split-second decisions — add even a few minutes’ thought or just plain inconvenience to it, and a lot of the victims change their minds. Of course, that’s not possible if your method involves instantly splattering your brains all over the wall with one pull of the trigger. If a bridge with a low barrier and a coal gas oven are Regis Philbin asking you to lock in your final answer, having a gun is like the Jeopardy! clicker — all you have to do is press one button a single time and it’s done. No going back. So it’s no surprise that one of the biggest risk factors for suicide is simply having a gun in the house.

I won’t get into the gun issue here, aside from saying as a born and raised Canadian, I grew up with the notion that guns were for 2 things – hunting animals in the woods (out of the city), and for police officers. While a few things lately have indicated that my viewpoints are becoming a little more libertarian in certain aspects, I still don’t see guns as “necessary” for the average person to own. I’ve lived in the suburbs and I’ve lived in sketchyville, and I’ve never felt the need to own a gun for self-protection, but I get that America is a different culture, and it is what it is.

9. “5 Ways to Trick Your Body Into Being More Awesome

Here’s an example of myth busting, proving that something we always get told or taught may not actually be correct:

But it turns out that what the coaches thought was good for you was actually leaving you worse off. Static stretching — the kind where you reach down to touch your toes and hold — before an intense workout or game will not only wear you out quicker but also make you more liable to injury. And that’s because when you stretch, your limbs consider the possibility that they’re about to be snapped off, so they tighten. Furthermore, you’re lengthening the muscles’ fibers, which wears them down and leaves you weaker during the actual workout.

A study at the University of Nevada tested participants by having them stretch before running. Results showed that those who stretched generated less force from their leg muscles than those who did no stretching at all. Other studies have found decreases of about 30 percent in muscle strength after stretching. And on top of all this, as we mentioned before, these stretches don’t warm you up — they tighten the muscles, which is about as far as you can get from the ideal state of having them warm and loose.

Personally, after reading this, I stopped stretching before going to the gym, but I couldn’t personally notice enough of a difference to comment. The trainers at the gym however did corroborate it verbally. They generally recommended doing “static stretching” only after a workout.

10. “5 Things Adults Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Get Mad About

I’m not even going to quote this one. Just read it. It boils down to “If you complain about these things, your priorities might be out of order in life”. Come on folks, we all have more important things to worry about, right?

11. “The 5 Most Secretly Badass Countries

Another one of those “really interesting and semi-morbid facts”:

If you’re wondering how Switzerland can remain famously neutral, there are several reasons, but let’s start with this: The entire country is rigged to blow.

There are at least3,000 points of demolition built into bridges, highways, and railroads throughout the nation. And those are just the ones acknowledged by the government. Some of those beautiful mountains are hollow enough to fit whole military divisions. There are cannons hidden in houses — just waiting, just begging for the chance to kill someone. There are man-made rock slides waiting for the trigger. And all of these Wile E. Coyote traps weren’t just set up and abandoned after World War II — civil engineers undergo regular drills all the time. You know, just in case.

What we’re trying to say is that Switzerland is like that quiet kid in the back of class who you just don’t fuck with because he knows muay thai and has a weird twitch. Oh, and he has a lot of guns. In Switzerland, every man is required to join the military once he hits 19. That in itself isn’t too weird; lots of countries have compulsory conscription. What’s different about Switzerland is that once discharged from basic training, everyone takes their weapons home with them. They have to. It’s the law. And they can keep those guns forever, which is one reason why the only two countries that have more firearms per capita than Switzerland are the United States (no surprise there) and Yemen.

Bet you never would have guessed that about Switzerland, huh? I’ll never look at them the same way again. At least they make world famous chocolate, I guess?

That article is full of other surprises. Seriously, read it.

12. “4 Difficult Ways to Simplify Your Life (That Are Worth It)

Another one that is hard to pick a single quote from, but needless to say, some useful advice, including being able to let go of anger, stop keeping score and don’t wait around for someone to tell you what to do or be. Carpe diem, friend!

13. “5 Minor Screw-ups That Created The Modern World

Another one where a particular line stuck in my memory:

There is an episode in the Roman epic poem Punica which details this odyssey where Hannibal tried to demonstrate to his men that a certain cliff was safe to pass along. He chose to do this by ramming his cane into the snow. This in turn triggered an avalanche, which wiped out one- to two-thirds of his invasion force, killing 18,000 of his 38,000 men, 2,000 of his 8,000 horses and a shitton of his precious pachyderms.

According to the story, he lost nearly one-half of his infantry and one-fourth of his cavalry before he was even ready to start getting his hands dirty. Since Hannibal happened to be one of the greatest generals who ever lived, he was able to work with a -67 percent handicap to give Rome hell for 16 years, but that brings us to one of history’s great “What If’s.”

Had things been different:

There is no doubt in the world that Hannibal would have conquered Rome, since the only thing holding him back was losing a big chunk of his army while coming over. Carthage would have completely supplanted Rome in history, and just about everything in the Western World, from its laws to its art and architecture to its genetic makeup, would probably look a lot more, um … Tunisian?

I found this interesting, to consider that the western world could have been settled more by middle eastern(ish) people than by white Europeans, but then again, apparently Jesus Christ was middle eastern, despite most popular depictions depicting him as white.

Also, this other Cracked article has similar subject matter.

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Update – April 18, 2014

Thanks to Comedian Patton Oswalt, I’ve just been turned into another great cracked article that I wanted to add to this compilation – “5 Shocking Realities of Being Transgender the Media Ignores”

Care to share your thoughts?