WTF Fun Fact 13656 – Francis Ford Coppola’s Wine

Francis Ford Coppola’s wine is his real source of wealth.

Renowned for his cinematic masterpieces like “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now,” embarked on a journey into the wine industry in the 1970s. This venture was not a mere flight of fancy but a passionate pursuit that paralleled his illustrious filmmaking career.

Coppola’s winemaking venture, which began as a modest family tradition, evolved into a significant business enterprise.

The Rise of Coppola’s Wine Empire

In the 1990s, Coppola’s wineries gained traction, overshadowing his work in Hollywood. His dedication to the craft led to an eight-year hiatus from directing.

Remarkably, his return to the director’s chair was funded not by Hollywood studios but by the profits from his thriving wine business. This intersection of art and entrepreneurship highlights Coppola’s versatility and business acumen.

Coppola’s focus on quality and luxury is evident at his Rubicon Estate. He invests in the estate’s continual improvement, planting new vines for the prestigious Rubicon wines, which command prices above $100 per bottle.

This commitment to excellence stems from Coppola’s aspiration for Rubicon to be synonymous with “great” wines, a step above the very good wines produced by other Napa Valley vintners.

A Family Tradition Turned Business

Coppola’s foray into winemaking was rooted in family tradition, stemming from his family’s home winemaking during Prohibition. What started as a fun, personal project gradually transformed into a serious business endeavor. When neighbors expressed interest in his grapes, Coppola saw an opportunity to create something special and seized it.

Coppola’s wine portfolio is diverse, offering both high-end and affordable options. His lower-priced “Francis Ford Coppola Presents” line features brands like Rosso & Bianco and Director’s Cut, with bottles priced between $10 and $27. These wines, made with grapes from various vineyards, are accessible to a wide audience across the U.S.

In contrast, the Rubicon Estate produces wines in the $40 to $125 range, exclusively from organically certified grapes. This attention to quality and sustainability marks Coppola’s commitment to excellence in winemaking.

Coppola’s dedication has earned him respect in the wine industry. Insiders recognize him as a serious vintner, not just a Hollywood celebrity dabbling in wine. He employs top talent in Napa Valley and holds a significant presence in Sonoma County. His passion for high-quality wines and a well-thought-out business plan have garnered industry accolades.

Wine Spectator’s Acknowledgment

Coppola’s wines are poised to appear on Wine Spectator magazine’s list of best-selling U.S. wines. This recognition reflects the brand’s growing popularity and success. Industry experts like Frank Walters and Peter Marks acknowledge Coppola’s influence and the potential for even further refinement and success in the future.

Coppola’s journey in the realms of winemaking and filmmaking exemplifies how passion can drive success in diverse fields. His ability to weave his artistic vision into both cinema and viticulture showcases a rare blend of creativity and business savvy.

Coppola’s use of wine profits to finance his films is a testament to his entrepreneurial spirit. This unique funding approach allowed him to maintain creative control over his projects, free from the constraints of traditional Hollywood financing.

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Source: “Francis Ford Coppola’s big “action” is in wine” — Reuters

WTF Fun Fact 13655 – Ice Age Fire Art

Surviving the Ice Age required more than just hunting and gathering – there was fire art. OK, hear us out.

As they gathered around fires for warmth and safety, something more than just physical comfort emerged. This was a time for them to indulge in an artistic pursuit that continues to fascinate us today.

The Paleolithic Animator and Ice Age Fire Art

In recent research published in PLOS ONE, a team led by archaeologist Andy Needham proposed an intriguing idea. They suggested that Ice Age artists used the flickering light of fire to bring their stone carvings to life.

These 15,000-year-old limestone plaquettes, adorned with animal figures, were not just static art. Instead, under the dynamic light of a fire, they appeared to move, animating the etched creatures. Fire art!

Needham’s team studied various limestone plaquettes found at the Montastruc rock shelter in southern France. These carvings, attributed to the Magdalenian culture, showcased a range of animals like horses, ibex, and reindeer.

Interestingly, these plaquettes showed signs of thermal damage, suggesting exposure to fire. But was this intentional?

Experimental Archaeology Sheds Light

To answer this, the researchers turned to experimental archaeology. They created replica plaquettes and subjected them to different fire scenarios. These experiments aimed to replicate the pinkish discoloration seen on the originals. The results? The patterns suggested that the artworks were deliberately placed near the hearth, likely as part of the creative process.

Further exploring this idea, the team used virtual reality to simulate firelight’s effect on the plaquettes. The results were fascinating. The irregular lighting from the fire brought an illusion of movement, making the animals seem like they were alive and moving across the stone surface.

The Role of Pareidolia in Ice Age Fire Art

This phenomenon can be partly explained by pareidolia, where the human brain perceives familiar patterns in random objects. In the flickering firelight, viewers would see incomplete forms on the plaquettes. Their brains would fill in the gaps, creating a dynamic viewing experience.

The Ice Age artists might have used this to their advantage. They could start with natural rock features to shape their animals, allowing the firelight to complete the picture. This interaction between the art, the rock’s natural form, and the dynamic firelight created a captivating experience, unique to the Paleolithic era.

Beyond survival, these artistic endeavors provided a social outlet. After a day of survival tasks, our ancestors likely gathered around the fire, not just for warmth but for a communal experience. Here, they could indulge in storytelling, companionship, and artistic expression.

The act of creating art by firelight was perhaps as important as the art itself. It wasn’t just about the final product but about the process of creation, the gathering of minds, and the sharing of ideas. This communal aspect of Ice Age art adds a deeply human dimension to our understanding of these ancient peoples.

Art as a Cultural Practice

Ice Age art wasn’t merely aesthetic; it was a cultural practice imbued with meaning. The process of drawing, the summoning of spirits, and even acts of destruction (like deliberate breakage or fire damage) could have had significant roles in their society.

These artistic sessions by the firelight might have served multiple purposes – from summoning spirits to strengthening community bonds. The plaquettes, once used, could have been discarded or intentionally destroyed, suggesting a transient nature to this art form.

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Source: “Ice Age Artists May Have Used Firelight to Animate Carvings” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13653 – Vomitoriums

The ancient vomitoriums apparently had nothing to do with vomiting at all!

The “vomitorium” has long been associated with images of ancient Romans indulging in excessive feasting only to purge themselves to eat more. However, this widespread belief is a historical misconception. The real meaning of vomitorium in Roman culture was quite different and far less grotesque.

Vomitorium are Exits

In reality, a vomitorium was an architectural feature in ancient Roman amphitheaters and stadiums. The word, derived from the Latin vomitus, which means to spew forth, referred to the large passageways that allowed crowds to exit rapidly into the streets.

These passageways were efficient in dispersing large groups of people from the venues, similar to how food is expelled from the stomach.

The false notion of the vomitorium as a place for purging after excessive eating likely stemmed from a misunderstanding of the Latin language.

It was an easy jump from “vomitorium,” a term describing the spewing of crowds, to a place for vomiting. The misinterpretation was possibly fueled by modern literature and an already existing stereotype of ancient Romans as excessively indulgent.

Literary Exaggerations

Classical texts that described Roman feasts and excesses played a role in cementing this myth. Works like Seneca’s Letters and the satirical ‘Satyricon’ by Petronius depicted scenes of lavish Roman feasts and debauchery. These descriptions, often satirical and exaggerated, influenced modern interpretations and led to the vomitorium myth.

Roman feasts, especially among the upper class, were indeed grand. They involved elaborate dishes and communal eating. Entertainment was common, with dancers and musicians adding to the festivities. Women and men dined together, which was a departure from the Greek tradition.

The feasts could include extravagant presentations, but there is no historical evidence to suggest that these gatherings included rooms specifically designated for purging.

Contrary to the image of constant overindulgence, the diets of both wealthy and poorer Romans were predominantly grain-based. The wealthy had more access to wheat and meats, while the poorer sections of society consumed more millet.

This dietary pattern indicates that while the rich could afford more lavish meals, their eating habits were not as extreme as the myth of the vomitorium would suggest.

Debunking the Myth of Vomitoriums

The vomitorium is a great example of how misconceptions can arise from misinterpretations and satirical representations. It wasn’t a space for bingeing and purging but rather an architectural innovation for crowd management.

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Source: “Purging the Myth of the Vomitorium” — Scientific American

WTF Fun Fact 13550 – The Cincinnati Redlegs

In the early 1950s, the Cincinnati Reds became the Cincinnati Redlegs after the team found their name entangled in the political tensions of the era.

As America’s fear of communism grew, particularly during the Korean War, the Reds decided to change their name to the Cincinnati Redlegs between 1953 and 1959. This decision wasn’t about sports; it was a move to distance the team from any communist associations, a concern amplified by the rise of McCarthyism.

Historical Roots and Political Pressures

The original name, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, dates back to 1869, becoming the Reds in 1881. However, the post-World War II era marked a period of heightened suspicion towards communism, often referred to as “The Red Scare.”

Senator Joseph McCarthy’s public witch hunts for communist sympathizers cast a shadow of fear across America. The term “Reds” became uncomfortably close to “Reds,” a common term for communists.

To avoid unwanted connections, the team opted for “Redlegs,” a nod to its historical roots and a safe distance from political controversy.

The Cincinnati Redlegs and Uniform Changes

During this period, some of the team’s most celebrated players, including Frank Robinson and Joe Nuxhall, played under the Redlegs banner. Despite the official name change, the team’s jerseys still sported the word “Reds,” and fans and media often continued to refer to them by their original name.

In 1956, an attempt to further avoid the “Reds” association led to jersey modifications, including a season featuring a Mr. Redlegs logo. However, these changes were short-lived.

Senator McCarthy’s influence dwindled following his senate censure in 1954 and his subsequent death in 1957. With the decline of McCarthyism, the climate of fear surrounding communism receded. By 1959, the team reclaimed its original name, the Cincinnati Reds.

The word “Reds” reappeared on their uniforms in 1961, a year marking their return to the postseason as National League pennant winners. Interestingly, the team experienced limited success as the Redlegs, with only two winning seasons during this period.

Reflections on the Reds’ Name Change

The story of the Reds becoming the Redlegs is a fascinating example of how sports can intersect with politics. It reflects a time when fear and suspicion influenced various aspects of American life, including the world of baseball. The Reds’ decision to change their name was a response to the prevailing political climate, a move to safeguard the team’s image amid national paranoia.

While the Redlegs name was relatively short-lived, it remains an interesting chapter in the team’s history. It signifies how external factors can impact sports teams and their identities. The era also reminds us of the power of names and symbols in representing and reflecting societal values and concerns.

Today, the Cincinnati Reds are firmly established with their original name, with the “Redlegs” period serving as a historical footnote. The team continues to build upon its rich history, contributing to the dynamic world of baseball while staying clear of political controversies that once led to a significant, if temporary, identity change.

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Source: “How the Reds became the Redlegs” — MLB.com

WTF Fun Fact 13648 – The Greek Gymnazein

The term ‘gymnastics’ comes from the Greek gymnazein, which means “to exercise naked.” This ancient practice, initially a method of training young men for warfare, has significantly evolved over the millennia.

Today, it’s a sophisticated sport with precise routines and complex scoring systems. Let’s delve into how gymnastics transformed from its ancient roots to the contemporary spectacle we see today.

The Greek Gymnazein and Naked Training

Gymnastics has its roots in ancient civilizations. Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese engravings show that gymnastics-like activities were common in these cultures. The Greeks, however, are credited with developing gymnastics as a method to prepare young men for battle. Originally, these exercises were performed naked – a practice that is unimaginable in today’s times.

As the sport evolved, it moved away from its military training purpose. By the early 19th century, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, known as the “father of gymnastics,” founded gymnastics centers across Germany. These centers aimed to foster health and patriotism among the youth. Jahn’s influence extended to developing early versions of apparatuses that are still used in modern gymnastics.

Apparatus Evolution from the Greek Gymnazein

Gymnastics today is divided into different apparatuses, each with its own history and evolution.

  1. Pommel Horse: This apparatus originated as a method for soldiers to practice mounting horses. Jahn developed a more sophisticated version to train the body for strength and agility.
  2. Parallel and Horizontal Bars: Also attributed to Jahn, these apparatuses have evolved significantly. The women’s uneven bars, derived from parallel bars, showcase a combination of agility and grace.
  3. The Vault: This apparatus underwent significant redesign for safety reasons. The modern vaulting table, with its wider and cushioned surface, replaced the older, more dangerous design.
  4. Still Rings: Known for requiring immense strength, the still rings date back thousands of years to Italy. They emphasize stability and control, with athletes aiming to keep the rings as stationary as possible.
  5. Balance Beam: What started as a simple log suspended in the air is now a padded beam, requiring extreme focus and precision. It’s an event where the slightest error can have significant consequences.

The modern Gymnazein

Modern gymnastics is far more than just physical exercise; it’s a blend of art, grace, strength, and agility. It demands not only physical prowess but also mental focus and artistic expression. Each routine, whether on the floor or an apparatus, tells a story, and gymnasts spend countless hours perfecting every movement and expression.

The Olympics have been a major stage for gymnastics since its inclusion in the modern games. It’s here that gymnastics truly comes into the limelight, with athletes from around the world showcasing their skills. The evolution of the sport is evident in the level of difficulty and creativity displayed in these routines, pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible in Jahn’s time.

Gymnastics is not just for elite athletes. It’s a sport that offers something for everyone, from young children learning coordination and balance to adults looking for a fun way to stay fit. It helps develop a range of physical skills like strength, flexibility, and coordination, as well as mental skills like concentration and discipline.

The Future of Gymnastics

The future of gymnastics looks promising, with new techniques and elements being introduced regularly. Advances in coaching, equipment, and athlete training continue to elevate the sport to new heights. The emphasis on safety, combined with a push for more artistic expression, ensures that gymnastics will remain a beloved and exciting sport for generations to come.

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Source:

WTF Fun Fact 13647 – The Optical Illusion of the Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, a renowned symbol of America’s westward expansion, presents a fascinating optical illusion.

To many observers, this iconic structure appears to be taller than its width. However, the reality defies this visual trickery: the Arch measures precisely 630 feet both in height and width.

This illusion stems from the unique shape and viewing angles of the Arch, challenging our perceptions and adding to its allure.

Engineering Marvel Behind the Illusion

The construction of the Gateway Arch was an exercise of extreme precision. The two separate legs of the arch had to meet with an incredibly small margin for error – less than 1/64th of an inch. Any deviation from this would have prevented the arch from joining correctly.

The success in achieving this feat is a testament to the extraordinary skill of the welders and engineers involved in its construction.

Remarkably, despite the high-risk nature of the construction, not a single life was lost during the building of the Arch. This defies the initial predictions of the insurance company, which expected 13 fatalities due to the project’s complexity and the lack of safety nets for workers.

More Interesting Facts about The Gateway Arch

Another aspect of the Gateway Arch’s design that adds to its distinction is its unique tram system. This system, part elevator and part Ferris wheel was conceptualized by Dick Bowser, a man without formal engineering training. His innovative design solved the problem of transporting visitors to the top of the curved structure, something a traditional elevator could not achieve.

While security concerns generally prevent presidents from ascending the Arch, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a notable exception. He insisted on riding the tram to the top during a visit in 1967, becoming the only president to have experienced the Gateway Arch from its highest point.

Maintaining an Icon

The Gateway Arch’s recent renovation is an extensive and costly endeavor. Costing over $380 million, this project involves the renovation of the surrounding park, expansion of the museum, and implementation of flood prevention measures. This cost notably exceeds the original construction cost of the arch, adjusted for inflation.

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Source: “8 Facts You Didn’t Know About St. Louis’s Gateway Arch” — Architectural Digest

WTF Fun Fact 13543 – Final Days of the Pony Express

In the 1860s, the Pony Express emerged as a revolutionary mail service, connecting the East and West coasts of the United States.

This legendary system, although short-lived, played a crucial role in American history, especially during its turbulent Civil War era. Its establishment was a response to the dire need for faster communication across the vast expanse of the country.

Challenges and Downfall

The demise of the Pony Express was a result of several factors, not just the advent of the transcontinental telegraph. Key among these was the deteriorating financial state of its parent company, Russell, Majors, and Waddell. This company had already been financially strained due to various misfortunes, including the loss of a large oxen herd and the impact of the Pyramid Lake War, which led to the destruction of many stations and the loss of essential resources.

The operating costs of the Pony Express were substantial. It needed about $1,000 daily to function, but its income fell short. Despite an initial charge of $5 per ounce for mail (later reduced to $1), the service was too expensive for the general public, limiting its use to newspapers and businesses. The company’s total expenses amounted to $700,000 against receipts of about $500,000.

Internal conflicts within the company and external pressures further aggravated the situation. The arrest of William Russell on charges related to stolen government bonds was a significant blow. Alexander Majors’ preparation for bankruptcy sent shockwaves through the business community, undermining confidence in the company.

Transition and Closure of the Pony Express

Despite these challenges, the Pony Express continued to operate, albeit at a loss. The government attempted to salvage the situation by merging the Pony Express with the Butterfield Overland Mail Company, but the effort was short-lived. The completion of the transcontinental telegraph line in October 1861 made the Pony Express obsolete, leading to its closure two days after the telegraph’s completion.

In its 18 months of operation, the Pony Express completed 308 runs, covering around 616,000 miles. This distance is equivalent to circling the Earth over 30 times. It successfully delivered 34,753 letters, losing only one mail bag throughout its operation. The primary issue, however, remained its financial non-viability.

Historical Significance

Despite its financial failure, the Pony Express is remembered for its significant impact. It was a testament to the courage, determination, and ingenuity of its founders and workers. The service played a vital role in keeping California and the West connected to the rest of the country, especially as the nation was on the brink of war. It filled an urgent need of its time and etched its name in the annals of American history.

The Pony Express’s closure marked the end of an adventurous and bold experiment in American communication history. It paved the way for more sustainable and technologically advanced means of communication, signifying the nation’s progress. Yet, the story of the Pony Express continues to captivate the imagination of many, symbolizing the relentless American spirit.

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Source: “Pony Express – Final Days” — Encyclopedia Britannica

WTF Fun Fact 13541 – NYC’s Rat Czar


New York City has taken a significant step forward in its war against rodents by appointing Kathleen Corradi as the city’s first-ever “rat czar.”

This initiative is a part of Mayor Eric Adams’ administration’s efforts to address a major quality-of-life and health challenge. Corradi’s role involves coordinating rat reduction efforts across city government agencies, community organizations, and the private sector.

Harlem Rat Mitigation Zone and Funding

As part of this initiative, Mayor Adams also announced the Harlem Rat Mitigation Zone, backed by a $3.5 million investment for Fiscal Year 2023. This investment aims to expand and accelerate rat reduction efforts across Harlem, encompassing Community Boards 9, 10, and 11. The funding will assist in employing new staff, purchasing equipment, and implementing innovative rat mitigation techniques.

Corradi’s strategic plan to combat the rat crisis includes cutting off rats’ food sources and deploying new technologies for detection and extermination. These efforts will harness the expertise of various city agencies like the Department of Health, Parks and Recreation, Housing Authority, Department of Education, Sanitation, and Small Business Services.

The rat mitigation strategy is more than just a quality-of-life issue. It symbolizes the fight against systemic challenges that have long affected New Yorkers, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. The plan aims to provide equitable quality of life experiences for all New Yorkers.

Collaborative Approach and Public Involvement

The strategy emphasizes the importance of each New Yorker playing their part in creating a rat-free city. This includes keeping homes clean, securing trash, destroying potential rat habitats, and adhering to common-sense tips. The city plans to offer Harlem-specific rat academies, teaching residents how to prevent rat infestations on their properties.

In support of the initiative, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City received a donation of over 1,000 Tomcat rodent control products. These will be used across various city locations, aiding the fight against rodent infestations.

Long-Term Vision for the Rat Czar

The appointment of a rat czar marks a new era in New York City’s approach to pest control. The long-term goal is to produce a cleaner, more livable city for future generations. This effort represents a bold and creative approach to tackle one of the city’s most persistent problems.

Kathleen Corradi brings a wealth of experience in community engagement, program development, and facility operations. Her background in science and expertise in rodent mitigation positions her to lead this challenging and crucial initiative effectively.

The Adams administration has shown its commitment to addressing quality-of-life issues through various initiatives, including the ‘Get Stuff Clean’ program. The rat czar appointment further emphasizes this commitment, aiming to make New York City a cleaner and healthier place for its residents.

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Source: “Mayor Adams Anoints Kathleen Corradi as NYC’s First-Ever ‘Rat Czar'” — NYC.gov

WTF Fun Fact 13538 – Michel Lotito

Michel Lotito, known as ‘Monsieur Mangetout’ (Mr. Eat All), was not your average eater. His diet included items that most would consider inedible: metal, rubber, and glass.

Lotito’s extraordinary consumption habits earned him a place in the Guinness World Record for the world’s strangest diet. Among his most remarkable feats was eating an entire airplane, along with bicycles, razor blades, and more.

The Method Behind the Madness

Born in 1950 and passing away in 2007, Lotito’s unique eating habits began in his teenage years. He discovered his ability to consume non-food items and developed a taste for them.

To prepare these items for consumption, he cut them into bite-sized pieces using an electric power saw. He swallowed these pieces whole, like a pill, aided by mineral oil and water to lubricate the process. Surprisingly, he managed to excrete these materials without significant problems.

Lotito’s preparations for consuming such bizarre items were meticulous. He had an incredibly high pain threshold, which he attributed to practicing sophrology, a form of self-hypnosis and relaxation. His first experience with eating glass at the age of 16 led him to explore other inedible objects.

What started as a simple party trick evolved into a lucrative career. Lotito performed in various shows, displaying his unique talent. He could consume items like bicycles, which he would eat over several days, and even razor blades, plates, and metal pieces.

The Anatomy of Michel Lotito

Lotito’s unusual diet is attributed to pica, a psychological disorder characterized by eating things that are not food. However, Lotito believed his physical makeup played a significant role in his dietary choices. He claimed to have incredibly strong teeth and powerful gastric juices that could melt metal.

Despite his unique ability, soft foods like bananas and hard-boiled eggs caused him discomfort. While there were doubts about whether his body was genuinely different from an ordinary person’s, his long-term doctor expressed concerns about the impact of his diet on his health.

Legacy of an Extraordinary Eater

Monsieur Mangetout’s diet remained a fascinating and cautionary tale. He passed away in 2007 due to natural causes. The extent to which his diet influenced his health or his death remains a mystery.

Over 15 years after his passing, Michel Lotito’s story continues to intrigue and caution new generations. As a performer, entertainer, and record-breaker, his legacy as a truly one-of-a-kind individual lives on.

Michel Lotito’s story is a testament to the incredible adaptability and resilience of the human body. His ability to consume what most would find inconceivable not only challenged our understanding of what is possible but also provided a unique perspective on the human experience. Whether it was his mental fortitude or a unique physiological makeup, Monsieur Mangetout’s life remains a fascinating chapter in the annals of extraordinary human behaviors.

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Source: “The man who ate metal: Monsieur Mangetout’s strange diet” — Guinness Book of World Records