5 Medical Symptoms Named After Literary Characters

Fairy tales may be full of charm and enchantment but they certainly provide valuable lessons. Identifying oneself with heroes from literary works is a healthy stage in one’s childhood as children’s imagination is one of the ways in which Mother Nature protects them from the harsh realities of daily life.

The tricky part arises when adults find themselves tied up to literature, whether they like it or not, as several physical and mental disorders are named after literary characters. Here’s a look at five of them:

  1. Sleeping Beauty Syndrome
Sleeping Beauty painting by Victor Gabriel Gilbert
Sleeping Beauty painting by Victor Gabriel Gilbert

 

 

 

 

 

This classic fairy tale, first told by Charles Perrault (17th century), retold by the Brothers Grimm (18th century) and made popular by Disney, is much loved by one generation after the other. The medical condition is also known as Rip Van Winkle Syndrome, after the title of a short story written by Washington Irving (19th century).

 Without even going into the symbolism hidden inside this story and leaving aside the medical and hygienic implications of a human body asleep for 100 years, let’s just look into the neurological syndrome named after it. Also known as the Kleine-Levin syndrome (KLS), named after the medical doctors to have first mentioned and studied it, its first known case was reported in 1862.

This condition is characterised by frequent episodes of hypersomnia and behavioural disturbances. Individual episodes last more than a week, but less than a month. A normal lifestyle is out of the question as these patients tend to be bedridden. Patients experience approximately 20 recurrent episodes during more than a decade. Unlike the fairy tale that borrowed its name, the condition seems to affect predominantly male patients (68 percent) worldwide. It is a very rare disease, occurring one in a million. The onset of the condition seems to follow a viral infection. There is no known cure yet.

2. Munchausen Syndrome

The Baron Munchausen, illustrated by Gottfried Franz.
The Baron Munchausen, illustrated by Gottfried Franz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favourite stories as a child was that of The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen by German writer Rudolf Erich Raspe (1785), based on true stories of a real baron.

The medical condition itself has nothing to do with the social satire depicted in the fairy tale, but rather with a desperate call for sympathy. The patients suffering from Munchausen Syndrome are not sick, but fake the symptoms in front of family and doctors, often secretly injuring themselves to maintain the illusion of illness. The Munchausen Syndrome is a mental disorder caused by childhood trauma, poor self-esteem, emotional or personal disorders. More common in men than women, it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics because lying is very common with this illness.

3. Dorian Gray Syndrome (DGS)

Portrait Of Dorian Gray painting by Mercuralis
Portrait Of Dorian Gray painting by Mercuralis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This medical condition is named after the classical story by Oscar Wilde in which the main character sells his soul to keep his youthful appearance and beauty until the very last moment of his life. The patient suffering from this condition will be overly preoccupied with keeping his/her young look and a “perfect” appearance.

Dysmorphophobia, or excessive dislike of a part of one’s body, will often manifest, therefore these patients will abuse cosmetic surgery to the point where depression sets in. In addition, they will often abuse weight-loss products, mood enhancers and even their gym membership card. A sufferer of DGS shouldn’t be taken lightly. Although a lack of self-esteem or a narcissistic personality might be the cause, the syndrome itself often conducts to physical disorders as well as causing social and mental health issues (depression, even suicide).

4. Othello Syndrome

The_Return of Othello, from Othello,_Act_II,_Scene_ii painting by Thomas Stothard
The_Return of Othello, from Othello,_Act_II,_Scene_ii painting by Thomas Stothard

 

 

 

 

 

Named after the main character in the Shakespeare tragedy ‘Othello”, the patient affected by this malady lives with the constant obsession that their life partner is cheating on them. Psychiatrists John Todd and Kenneth Dewhurst were the first to name and study this mental disorder in 1955.

Within limits, jealousy is a normal human feeling. But when it leads to repeated interrogations of one’s partner, searches for nonexistent evidence, stalking, even violence, it becomes a “dangerous form of psychosis” (Todd).

The Othello Syndrome is believed to be caused by a stroke, a tumour, or some other injury, especially to the right frontal lobe but also by substance abuse like dopamine prescribed in the treatment of Parkinson disease. Alcoholism and cocaine abuse can also lead to the onset of Othello Syndrome. Not to be taken lightly, this syndrome can affect both men and women and it can lead to disruption of marriage, homicide or suicide.

5. Peter Pan Syndrome

Peter Pan
Peter Pan

 

 

 

 

Named after the main character in the book with the same name by Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie, it was first made popular by Dr. Dan Kiley in 1983. This syndrome defines men who refuse to act like grown-ups and assume responsibilities. They prefer to live in a juvenile world, are enthusiastic and like to have fun, but never settle down in a relationship because they dislike restrictions. They lack decision making skills and the ability to assume responsibilities. To disguise this, they act overconfident and arrogant. Women found in the same situation are affected by the Wendy Syndrome.

These people, although having developed intellectually and having above average IQ’s, have not developed emotionally past adolescence. The main cause is, probably, a lack of affection during childhood. With the aid of psychotherapy these people can learn to overcome their fears, to assume responsibilities and lead a fulfilled, grown-up life. However, this is not a mental disorder. The Peter Pan Syndrome is closely linked to Carl Jung’s theory of “Puer Aeternus” (eternal boy).

A similar syndrome is the Huckleberry Finn Syndrome, named after the main character in the Mark Twain novel. Developing in children due to a feeling of being rejected by their parents, feeling inferior in school or due to depression, it seems to be a defense mechanism. It manifests by a desire to do anything but go to school; these children will waste their time on the streets or playing computer games. Moving into the grown-up stage of life, these children might be at risk of frequent job changing and absenteeism.

Initially written and published on the Huffington Post SA 28 June 2017

Huffington Post SA
HuffPostSA

You might like to read:

Haiku-San, Life Cycle

Haiku-San, Running Water

 

 

Joyful Trouble, Bestseller and Most Gifted Book on Amazon UK

Joyful Trouble is a Bestseller on both eBook and paperback format as well as a Hot New Release and No.1 Most Gifted in Africa for Young Adults on Amazon UK!

To celebrate this I am offering a few of my other children’s books for free.

Why don’t you visit my Amazon Author Page to choose some?

UK customers please click here.

US customers please click here.

Here are some of the amazing reviews Joyful Trouble received:

“Such a lovely book!
This heart – warming story is definitely about friendship and the strong bond that links men and dogs…and what a better “lens” to see the beauty of this friendship than a story told by a Grandfather to his sweet little grandchildren…!
But this story is most of all about the transforming power of love. Even the title talks about this: even though at the first sight the words “joy” and “trouble” are mutually exclusive, the situation changes under the magic touch of love….and becomes “joyful trouble”..
I definitely recommend this book for both children and adults: each generation will find its message and certainly feel better after reading this well told story!”

“I came across this little story which reminded me of home in Cape Town many years ago when my family and I visited Simon’s Town and posed next to a statue built in honour of a great friend – a large Great Dane. I loved the way Ms Furstenberg retells this naval story in the setting of a grandpa and his grandchildren spending time together and he relating Joyful Trouble’s story to them. I thought she did a marvellous job of this loveable dog’s passing – comparing it to the little boy’s kite – even I felt a tinge of sadness for this dog who touched so many lives. I highly recommend this story to be read even to younger children before going to bed, doing so in the same way the story is told – every time the little ones visit granddad, he tells them a little bit more. The chapters are just the right length for such a reading session. I’ve sent the link to my 10-year old granddaughter so that her mother can download a copy for her.”

This is a wonderful story which tells a wonderful tale about a military service dog whose efforts will warm your heart. As a dog lover and trainer, it never seems to surprise me how loyal and dedicated ordinary dogs are. They make such a wonderful impact in our lives. However, when these dogs are serving alongside our soldiers and sailors, defending our country, their heroic tales are more inspirational. I think the author tells this story very well. It is relatable and I’m sure many children will gain a lot from reading it. It is a great read for adults too!”

Very cute book that I read to my 7 year old daughter and she loved it. Fully recommend to any children, and not just dog loving children.”

A wonderfully skilled blend of fact and fiction, beautifully narrated, and really touches on the important things in life.”

Such a heartwarming, lovely story. Great for all ages. A cute twist on a true story. Like all of her books, you feel good when you read it.”

Such a well written and heart warming story for all children. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Captivating read from the first page!”

“A book written for all the senses : tactile information, kinaesthetic, auditive….a strong auctorial voice explains every situation, making it possible for the reader to live it as a film.”
“A delightful story narrated by Grandad about a mischievious fun loving dog who gained the friendship and respect of the Navy Seamen. Patricia brilliantly conveys the child-like innocence and wonderment of the children. The story will make you “awww” as well as “lol”. Parents will enjoy reading Joyful Trouble to their little ones.”
I have just finished reading “Joyful Trouble” and I loved it!
Really funny and excellent likeable characters, especially the little brother Tommy. A charming read for those of us who understand the joys and pains of owning dogs.
Well worth a read, you won’t be disappointed. :-)”
You can buy Joyful Trouble from Amazon UK here.
US customers, please get Joyful Trouble here.
Joyful Trouble, a book that reads like a movie
Joyful Trouble, a book that reads like a movie

5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Boys into Bookworms

Raising a boy who takes pleasure out of reading books just as much as from a soccer ball or a Play Station might sound easier said than done, but, in the long run, it’s all worth it.

There are lots of books there that can stand on their own two feet and win the battle against a Nintendo, a Xbox or… even Minecraft!

Here are five easy steps to get your son to enjoy reading.

1. Visit the local library together.

Let your son wonder around the library, see a book and sit down to page through it. Don’t rush him. Find books with little text and lots of images geared at what your child is interested it. Then slowly move to books with short chapters.

If your child struggles to read himself, then read to him, aloud, every day. He’ll still get to enjoy the story without feeling frustrated and books will still be a positive experience for him. Until he’ll enjoy them by himself.

2. Leave reading material around the house

Be it a picture book on his favorite topic, a magazine or a comic book, you want him to pick it up and enjoy a page or two at a tiem. How-to books on sport are a great place to start getting a boy interested in reading.

Never make reading a chore. Rather surround your child with books, rather than forcing it on him. Place a bookshelf in his room and allow him to choose a few books to place in it.

3. Read yourself.

Children often mimic what they see and we, as parents, are our children’s mirrors.

Kids, especially boys, love silly books. Books with jokes are a great way to get them reading, sometimes even without them even noticing they are doing it.

4. Get Dad involved.

Get Dad to read too if your son struggles with reading. Even better, try a father-son book club and perhaps get involved with other dads and their sons. Book clubs are not only for girls – have a BBQ-Book Club, for example.

Remember, having positive role models help both boys and girl staying interested in reading.

5. Start a reading list by writing down what your son read and what he would like to read next. Allow him to rate the books. This way you can both see where his interests lay and he can feel more in control over his reading.

Studies show that children who have been introduced to books from an early age have a positive attitude towards reading and a greater chance to become successful readers. But a successful reader isn’t only someone who devours one book after another. A successful reader will also understand what the story line is about, will get its meaning and will also be able to focus on the task at hand for a longer time. For this is what reading entails, being able to focus indefinitely. Or at least until Mom or Dad come to switch off your light and forceful y remove the book from your hand because… tomorrow is school.

Five great books for boys:

1. Captain Underpants series is a great place to start and a Best Seller in Children’s Chapter Books;

2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid has over 10 000 reviews;

3. The Boy’s Book of Adventure: The Little Guidebook for Smart and Resourceful Boys  a fun book packet with facts on outdoor and nature;

4.The Book With No Pictures if you’re brave to say out loud everything that’s written on each page;

5. Joyful Trouble a fun read about a real dog and World War I, Best Gifted Young Adult book in UK.

Originally written for Red Tricycle here.  

 

 

Kindle Storyteller 2017 Contest Entry “Joyful Trouble” and Some of the Best Book Reviews it Received

I am overjoyed to announced the release of my new children’s book Joyful Trouble just in time to enter it in the 2017 Kindle Storyteller Contest with amazing reviews from all over the world, the best ones written by children!

Here is one of my favorite book reviews:Joyful Trouble Review by 10 years old E from Ireland

Joyful Trouble Book Review by 10 years old E from Ireland 

Talented E, 10 years old from Ireland, left the following 5 Stars Amazon Review:

” This book is based on the true story of a dog called Joyful Trouble. There are three main characters: five year-old Tommy, his nine-year-old sister Anna, and their grandad. When they see a Great Dane in a parade, Grandad tells the kids the story of a dog he loved, called Joyful Trouble. He remembers being in the Navy during WWII and meeting the dog on the way to work one day.

Joyful Trouble was a mischievous but very helpful dog. The seamen got to know and love him and the dog was soon part of the crew. Joyful Trouble and Grandad were good friends and were put to work together. Along the way, the dog meets new friends, loses old ones and still is very happy. He causes a lot of trouble (that’s how he got his name) but also stops fights and commotion. In this book, Grandad is the story-teller and Anna and Tommy are the very eager listeners.

I love this book and it made me happy and, at some parts, sad. It is also a bit funny. The reason I love it so much is because I love dogs and true stories. I hope others will also enjoy it. I would recommend it for ages 8+.”

Thank you, E! Your heartfelt review is exactly what a writer strives towards 🙂

Joyful Trouble: Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy

Available in Kindle and Paperback from Amazon.

Read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

A humorous read about an incredible dog and how he found his true, yet unexpected calling.
A dog. A friendship. A purpose.
Proven to warm your heart, “Joyful Trouble” is a fast-paced, engaging and funny story.
Patricia Furstenberg paints a charming portrait of the bond between a small girl and boy and their much-loved Grandad. This book takes readers on an unbelievable journey, tackling universal themes and voicing animal rights and the importance of fighting for what is right.
When a Great Dane arrives in a Navy base nobody expects him to win everybody’s hearts, although breaking some rules along the way. But things soon turn sour as somebody threatens to put him to sleep. Who will stand up for this four-legged gentle giant?
A charming celebration of innocence.

***From the back cover of the print edition:***

“A superb tale which teaches us the true meaning of love, integrity, and the greatest things of all – a dog’s friendship and loyalty.” Susan Day Author, astrosadventuresbookclub.com

“Nine-year-old Ana and her little brother Tommy are taken on an historical adventure by their grandfather. It is the true story of an exceptional and gentle giant. Experiences that draw the reader in, through touching life lessons about courage, determination, resilience, loyalty, civic duty, empathy, history and a friendship that binds beyond human conception. ‘Grandpa looking into Ana’s eyes—said, ‘You must remember this. Determination and faith Ana, will always get you through tough times. Always.’” Jennifer Campana Lopez, TheJennieration.com – A New Generation of Fearless Thinkers & Learners.

The Storyteller contest is open until 19th May 2017 to budding and established authors.

 

 

 

 

Keep Your Faith South Africa

Keep Your Faith South Africa

In a world where terrorism takes over peace and hostilities replace kindness and tolerance; in a country where #FeesMustFall and, indirectly, so does education, a country governed by the local version of He Who Must Not Be Named, how do we keep our faith strong, for the sake of our children?

I keep on telling myself that the people make the country and not its politicians. Although the politicians may very well break it. After all, the people have the power to choose their own government. Although power is not the correct word here anymore, choice is. Just as I choose not to speak ill of my husband in front of my children – or anyone else for that matter and just as I do not speak ill of my own children in front of them – or anyone else, because I don’t want to break them.

I do not speak ill of my children’s teachers or of their school in front of them – because I don’t want to break their faith in their own education. Just as well, I choose not to speak ill of this country of ours. I think of Madiba, because he is my South African grandfather just as much as he is yours or his. I think of Madiba’s love for positive reinforcement and for this country.

Nelson Mandela wrote in his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom“: “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death.”

Your CAN DO list for keeping your FAITH in SOUTH AFRICA

CAN DO #1

Learn an African language. Learning another language helps breech cultural barriers, have access to and better understand other groups and people. And this is imperative in a country as rich as ours, with eleven official languages. Most schools nowadays offer a third language. Let’s celebrate this opportunity and learn with our children.

CAN DO #2

Engross yourself in other cultures. This is as easy as pie in South Africa and it will bring along respect and tolerance. Begin with food; try new recipes, local ones. Move into indigenous music, theater and home-grown, local authors. South Africa offers a rich cultural stew and it just waits to be tasted, I guarantee that you will enjoy it. We are all different, yet it is the sum of our traditions that makes us, South Africans, whole and unique.

CAN DO #3

Wavin’ the South African Flag. I know you sang it, I did too.

“Give me freedom, give me fire

Give me reason, take me higher”

Wavin’ Flag Official Anthem Version

Fly the South African flag now, it brings along hope, respect and pride.

CAN DO #4

Preserve the South African wildlife. It will make our children’s country beautiful and rich. You could volunteer to work in a wildlife nature reserve and live the African Conservation Experience. Or you can just do your bit at saving water and electricity; as monotonous as these may sound, they will help our country in the long term.

CAN DO #5

Buy South African products, buy local. By buying locally manufactured and grown produce, we stimulate job creation, decreasing unemployment in South Africa.

Did you know that “PRIDE” is an acronym?

P – Patriotism, Partnership and Productivity.

R – Reindustrialisation

I – Innovation and competitiveness.

D – Domestic Consumption

E – Entrepreneurship, Enterprise Development, Economic Development and Export Development

PRIDE acronym by Patricia Furstenberg

Have Faith, South Africa.

We owe it to our children. Just like we love them, clothe and feed them, we owe them faith in a better country. It will probably take another presidential mandate to get us out of the Junk Status Rating. But deep down in my gut I know that I owe it to my children to have faith and raise them as positive South Africans.

Have faith, South Africa.

This article was written for and published on the Huffington Post SA on 11 April 2017.

Huffington Post SA
HuffPostSA

 

You might also enjoy reading:

What the World Cup and Wimbledon Finals, Barack Obama’s Visit to South Africa and Mandela’s Centenary Have Taught Me

Haiku-San, Afghan War

Does School Attendance Guarantee Literacy?

Does School Attendance Guarantee Literacy?

Early each morning a father braves the traffic riding his bicycle to his son’s preschool and then to work. It is an old bicycle model and he’s mended one of the tires but it transports both of them and that’s enough. He’s made a seat for his boy, right behind his own. His son has to go to school so that he’ll be ready for big school, when time will come. He’ll probably have to adjust the size of the child seat by then, but that’s something to worry about later. Today’s rainy; the roads are wet and the drivers impatient.

Early each morning a man runs 10km to get to work. He chose not to take the bus to save extra money and the work he’d found, although far, is good work and it pays for his children’s school, books, uniform and food. He knows the road off by heart and some of the drivers know him, they wave and give him priority. Just the 10km he has to run back at the end of the day is a bit much, but he’s got no choice.

It is determination that’s pushing these men, and many others, forward. The willpower to get the work done, to get that pay cheque, to pay those school fees, because school is important. They want their children to have the chance they never had. But is determination enough without an opportunity? Is school attendance that opportunity? And, above all, is it enough?

Most of us take reading, the simple act of understanding and subconsciously analyzing a text and taking enjoyment from it, for granted. We’ve been brought up in a culture of reading without even realizing it. Books, either electronic or hard copies, are within our reach, literally. What happens if the access to books is denied to a child? If the school or township is not having a library and even school books are scarce – because of financial restrictions or bad management?

Reading is proved to be linked to academic achievement, emotional intelligence and self-esteem.

the key factors to achieve a high literacy level in a country – Patricia Furstenberg

Literacy level in South Africa

The Data Portal Index Mundi presents the following rates for Literacy (%) in South Africa (adults 15 years and older):

The Data Portal Index Mundi presents the following rates for Literacy (%) in South Africa (adults 15 years and older)

“The Annual National Assessment (ANA) test results serve as a proxy for the quality of education in South Africa. The purpose of the Diagnostic Report is to provide detailed evidence of the knowledge and skills that the analysis shows learners were able or not able to demonstrate in the ANA tests.” (Department of Basic Education). The ANA is administered in Language and Mathematics on learners in Grades 1-6 and 9 in both public and independent schools and it was launched in 2011.The standards used by South Africa in assessing its literacy levels are the self-reported ability to read and write short sentences. The 2012 General Household Survey (GHS) conducted by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) considers all South Africans age 15 and older with a Grade 7 or higher education qualification as literate. But are these numbers reflecting the reality of our country’s literacy level?

Analysis of results: overall performance average (learners’ scores ranged from 0 to 100%).

 

For a better idea of the real issues behind these numbers here are some sample questions and answers. Source: Annual National Assessment 2014, Department of Basic Education, Republic of South Africa.

Grade 4 – Detailed Analysis First Additional Language

Grd 4 – ANA Diagnostic Report

Grade 5 – Detailed Analysis First Additional Language

Grd 5 – ANA Diagnostic Report

Grade 9 – Detailed Analysis First Additional Language

Grd 9 – ANA Diagnostic Report

Grade 9 – Detailed Analysis Home Language

Grd 9 – ANA Diagnostic Report2

Grade 9 – Detailed Analysis Home Language, example two

Grade 9 – Detailed Analysis Home Language, example two

Access to reading material in South African schools

Learners in a primary school with and without a library fulfilling minimum standard which, according to the National Guidelines for School Library and Information Services, are access to at least one of the following: a central school library OR a mobile library OR classroom libraries:

Learners in primary school in SA with or without a library
Percentage of learners, per province, in primary schools without and with a library.
Percentage of learners, per province, in secondary schools without and with a library.

Government schools and the learner allocation received

The 2009 UNICEF report stated that 53% of SA learners were in non-fee schools. These schools are completely dependent on funds from the government. The funds are allocated per learner, depending on the poverty of the area around the school and are amended annually.

Percentage of learners in schools funded at the minimum level in 2011, by province.

The percentage of learners funded at the minimum level is deeply concerning in Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal where only 10%, 15% and 23% of learners, respectively, were funded at the minimum level.

School attendance

Percentage distribution of learners in ordinary schools, by phase, in 2011 (as provided by the Department of Education).

percentage of learners in schools by phase, 2011, Depart.Basic Education

The government does not provide pre-Grade R programmes in schools. Moving up from Foundation Phase to Senior Phase the proportion of learners decreases.

In conclusion, the learner’s lack of access to reading materials due to chronic deficiency in library infrastructure is the biggest problem most government schools in South Africa face. It presents severe repercussions for the future of most children schooled as well as for the real level of literacy in South Africa for many years to come.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

Or South Africa, for the better.

This article was written for and published on the Huffington Post SA on 7 April 2017

You might also like to read:

Why We Need A (New) Generation Of Readers in South Africa

What the World Cup and Wimbledon Finals, Barack Obama’s Visit to South Africa and Mandela’s Centenary Have Taught Me

Huffington Post SA
HuffPostSA

April Fool’s Day, Childish Mischief or Ingenious Merriment?

April Fools' Day
April Fools’ Day

 April Fool’s Day, Childish Mischief or Ingenious Merriment?

All Fools’ Day or April Fool’s is an ancient celebration with universal roots. A day perceived as cheerful and mischievous, childish and absurd, its appeal to the human sense of humor and intellect is what probably made it last throughout the years. Or perhaps that breaking down the general barriers for just one day and shining a different light on life is just the tonic humanity needs, thinks sociologist Jonathan Wynn.

 April Fool’s origin

2000 years ago Romans celebrated Hilaria (Latin for “happiness”) at the end of March, a day of fun and nonsense when people would dress up in disguises. The Northern Hemisphere displays unpredictable weather during this time of the year, playing tricks on people so here’s another speculation for April 1st as for centuries humanity took their cues from and looked for answers in nature. Around the same time Hindus celebrate Holi, the Festival of Color, one of the few non-religious Hindu celebrations of merrymaking and generally “letting loose”. The Jewish Purim, a lively and fun festival, is also celebrated mid-March. Surprising how this time of the year brings merriment and well-being all around the world!

Another explanation for April Fool’s is that during the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine a group of court jesters proclaimed that they will be able to do a better job at running the empire than he did. In those times court fools were wise people, held in high regard. So Constantine played, along allowing Kugel the Jester to be king for one day. Kugel used his power wisely and proclaimed that day one of absurdity and trickery, thus putting life into a different light. His edict pleased the masses and it became an annual event – says BU Emertius Professor of History Joseph Boskin in this interview.

Professor Boskin actually prancked the American public with this story on April 1st 1983.

April’s Fools Practices around the World

In Scotland people are being sent in a “fool’s errand”, “hunting the gowk” usually with a sealed message reading

“Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile”.

The poor messenger is being sent from person to person becoming the gawk, a word used for cuckoo bird which symbolizes the fool.

In UK the prank is only being pulled by midday, the person playing the prank after that becoming the April Fools himself.

In Italy, France, Belgium, The Netherlands or French speaking nations around the world this day is called Poisson d’Avril, rooted in the 16th century with its change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. A paper fish is placed on people’s back symbolizing an easy catch, a gullible person.

Did you know?

Sugrophobia is the “fear of being suckered, tricked”, from “sugro” Latin for “to suck”.

Do’s and Don’ts on April Fool’s

Do plan ahead

Do help your little ones if they want to plan a prank but use your common sense

Do know the chemical substances you want to use

Do keep your hoax within moral limits

Do tell it’s an April Fool’s hoax as soon as you’re being asked

Do team up with your office mates

Do have fun and, remember, what goes around comes around

Don’t play the joke on your little children or your pets

Don’t resign as a joke

Don’t let a prank carry on for too long. It’s only fun if everybody is having fun.

Don’t experiment with potentially hazardous substances

Five of the best April Fool’s Hoaxes in history

  1. Prank Robbery, South Africa, 1952
    Four masked men entered a Stellenbosch bank and aimed water pistols at the staff shouting, “This is a holdup. Hand over the cash!” The alarm went off and the men threw the cash back, shouting “April Fool” then fled the scene in a car.
  2. Spaghetti Harvest, UK, 1957
    BBC broadcasted a three-minute segment featured a family from Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest, picking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry. Time was of essence as a sudden change in weather could impact on the flavor of the spaghetti. This was 1957 when spaghetti was still an exotic delicacy in UK. Some viewers called in asking where they could get their own spaghetti bushes.
  3. A new island in the Indian Ocean, UK, 1977
    The British newspaper The Guardian runs a special seven-page report about a newly discovered nation in a remote part of the Indian Ocean called San Serriffe, with the capital Bodoni and ruled by General Pica. The republic’s two main islands are named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse and on an aerial view they look just like a semi-colon. The hoax was a huge success, with only a few people spotting that all the terminology was named after printers’ lingo.
  4. Google Translate for Animals, 2000
    In 2000 Google claimed they had come up with a new app called Google Translate for Animals. The app could decipher what your pet was barking, mewing, grunting or cheeping about. It also supplied a video that has been seen nearly 2 million times.
  5. Water Runways for airplanes, South Africa, 2012
    Kulula Airline announces that selected airports, Cape Town, Durban and soon, Hartebeespoort Dam in Gauteng will soon be operating water runways in an attempt to “curb rising airport traffic congestion and high airport taxes.” The departing gate will now be called a departing pier and instead of buses, the passengers will be ferried to the planes by water shuttles.

Spilling The Beans: Why #PayWithAPoem Day Is For Everyone

The Poet-Tree, Robert Montgomery
The Poet-Tree, Robert Montgomery

Spilling The Beans: Why #PayWithAPoem Day Is For Everyone

Take me to Croatia on the 21st of March! I only need 12 hours. I need this time to feed my soul and my body; poetry for the soul, coffee for the body. And if not Croatia, then fly me to Turkey, UK or Romania!

On this day only one can pay with a poem for one’s cup of coffee.

Would you do it?

Did you know that one in five people believe poetry is for professional writers only?

Poetry excites the mind and enlightens the soul. You could say: “Whoa, Babe, poetry ahead!” or “Yay! Poetry!” Either way your eye acknowledged it and your mind engaged with it and your heart, most probably, slowed down its pace. “I know this”, it pulsed. “It is my language.” Because poetry is the universal language of our hearts.

Pay With A Poem Day is a fresh, new approach on literature. In 1999 UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared March 21 World Poetry Day, celebrating writing, publishing, reading and teaching of poetry worldwide, as UNESCO says, to give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.

Pay With A Poem Day has been initiated in 2013 by the Viennese manufacturer and coffee retailer Julius Meinl and all participating coffee sites are supported by a global campaign. If not lucky enough to be in a participating country on the 21st of March, you can follow it on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtags #PayWithAPoem and #PoetryForChange.

In 2016 over 250 cafes around Croatia gave FREE coffee in exchange for a… poem, 34 countries from around the world, 1 300 coffee houses where over 100 000 poems have been written! This year four continents will be joining in this brewing frenzy – with Netherlands and Singapore taking part for the first time.

From a bartering point of view, does this mean that a poem is worth a cup of coffee? If so, then I would definitely like to know how many cups of coffee is Karen Blixen’s Our Of Africa worth. How about Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None? Christie was a teetotaler. How many tea cups had she consumed until its completion? 500? 1,000?

How about Farewell To Arms?

Pay With A Poem Day does put book prices in a different perspective. And considering just the coffee price today, picking up a book at your local bookstore suddenly seems like a bargain.

Feeling uneasy about that poem? Two genres of short poetry come to mind for this fantastic occasion.

  • Write a Haiku.

Traditionally Japanese a Haiku is a 17 syllables verse formed of three lines with 5-7-5 syllables. Usually a Haiku is inspired by nature. Keep it short and count your syllables.

  • Write poetry of your own heart.

Just put pen on paper smile and listen to your heartbeat.

What Coffee is to Poetry by Patricia Furstenberg

Coffee is brewed for all of my sense,

Hot, steamy like a heart

Pulsating into my cup.

Nurturing me,

Giving me life

Day in and day out.

Poetry grows like a tree of life,

Words covering the nakedness of its trunk.

Cover my heart,

Fuel my emotions.

Coffee and poetry

For eternity.

Pay With A Poem Day around the world

London

A visual image for #PayWithAPoem day is The PoeTree. A red tree trunk with leafs of poems written all over the world on this singular day and planted right in the heart of London, on the pavement on Finsbury Avenue Square.

“We need poetry as much as we need nature. We need it to repopulate the places devoid of emotion with our dreams and our imagination. Poems can change our days for the better. They did it on March 21st. They are doing it now, once again.” (Robert Montgomery, Pay With A Poem global ambassador and artist.)

Milan

A bridge over Navigli River is draped in poems and thoughts written by coffee lovers. Imagine strolling under the Italian sun, taking in the sights and sounds of history, your heartbeat slowing down. The fresh aroma of coffee rises teasingly when a gush of wind makes the bridge hum, a low hum of paper being tossed and turned like the pages of an open book, spread out, invitingly waiting for you. Go ahead, read it, it’s ok, it is La Dolce Vita.

Lucchetti? …no grazie, POESIE!#poesia#emozioni#pontenaviglio#Milano#paywithapoemhttps://t.co/kzqg4oIQHApic.twitter.com/Ln7YxlCvTT

— Patrizia Franzina (@LaPatty1) May 4, 2016

Because POETRY is for EVERYONE.

It is as much mine and yours as it is Shelley’s or Frost’s. POETRY is not a past tense, poetry is NOW, contemporary and ALIVE.

“I love how Pay With A Poem provides a little pocket of freedom, where money is replaced by poetry. Instead of using a banknote or a credit card people can transfer value to poetry, and use it as an alternative form of payment.” (Robert Montgomery)

There’s more to look forward to as Julius Meinl also initiated the Meet With A Poem campaign on the 1st of October:

“An experiment to rewrite the way we show our feelings”

Just go ahead, put your heart on paper and write that poem. I know I will.

This article was written for and initially published on the Huffington Post SA on 21st March 2017.

Huffington Post SA
HuffPostSA

Why We Need A (New) Generation Of Readers in South Africa

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success, by Patricia Furstenberg
Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success, by Patricia Furstenberg

Why We Need A (New) Generation Of Readers in South Africa

“Readers are leaders”, said one great teacher; leaders of their own lives. Being able to understand what is expected of us beyond our job description or mastering those psychometric tests in a job interview could be life changing situations. Turning that first date into a success or having the ability to understand (and survive) our partner’s emotional needs are, definitely, lifesaving situations. What all of these occasions call for are our wits and… empathy. So relax; you’re not the odd one out if, at times, you feel for your boss. You should be celebrating instead.

Here’s when and why reading comes into our lives.

You know that special feeling when enjoying a good book? At first the world around us seems to be fading away as we’ve happily secluded ourselves. Then, after closing that volume, we feel like we’ve just roused from a daydream. “Oh, this place is still here… Look, my family!” Not surprisingly to discover that we can connect with them on a deeper level because we can now read (surprise!) their emotions so much better: like under a spotlight!

Empathising with those around us is the epitome of human evolution. The scientific world refers to it as the Theory of Mind (ToM) and research shows that, apparently, improving one’s ability to “read” people’s emotions is as easy as picking up a work of literary fiction. Psychologists Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd proved in their scientific study Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind published in Science just that.

“Theory of Mind is the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one’s own beliefs and desires.”

By assigning different reading material to a number of participants and afterwards testing them Castano and Kidd have been able to measure how well the subjects identified emotions in others. The readers of literary fiction scored, by far, the highest.

TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg1 – No reading or non-fiction reading will NOT improve the subject’s ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Theory of Mind, Castano & Kidd)
TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg2 – Reading Popular Fiction insignificantly enhances the subject’s ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Theory of mind, Castano & Kidd)
TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg3 – Reading Literary Fiction temporarily enhances the subject’s performance and his ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Roland Barthes)

Can You Read People’s Emotions? Take The Times quiz.

Why we need empathy – and books – in South Africa

From a parent’s point of view I certainly want my children to be successful in life.

Reading impacts greatly on a child’s evolving mind and, apart from its neurological, educational and psychological benefits, by improving their empathy reading helps children socialise at school and thrive in life.

Besides knowledge, sharpening a child’s empathic skills is just as important. If a clever brain is measured through its IQ (Intelligence Quotient), an empathic mind is measured through its EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient). A person with a high EQ will be able to better understand his own emotions as well as be able to better relate to the emotional status of those around him – thus improving his social skills and, eventually, the general social welfare of his generation.

Empathy is also proved to be crucial to a child in peer-pressure situations. Empathic children are less violent and develop into adults with a lower risk of emotional or behavioural problems later in life, violence and substance abuse included. (Did you feel as if you hated people?)

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a world where technology is omnipresent and social issues are on the rise; during a time when the rift between communities widens and the politics, not the civility, governs; when social indifference, not social compassion seem to be ruling our lives; when today’s major subject couldn’t be further away from tomorrow’s job and when employment policies, not work equity seem to rule, a new generation of readers, of emphatic human beings, is more in demand than ever before. “Fiction may change how, not just what, people think about others.” (Kidd, Castano)

5 Ways to foster empathy in our children

5 Ways to foster empathy in our children

5 Reasons why we need more good books in our lives

  1. Reading promotes empathy, helping us better understand other’s emotional state, a stepping stone to build meaningful relationships and more human societies.
  2. Reading promotes social welfare by bringing people together through enjoyable means.
  3. Reading develops consciousness; when one reads information is being absorbed on a conscious as well as unconscious way.
  4. Reading enriches our lives.
  5. Reading stimulates the intellect and the soul.

Surely reading literary fiction couldn’t be the only way to improve one’s ToM. Art, movies and musical performances also come into light.

I may not have read all the volumes of Hugo’s Les Miserables, but I remember watching the movie. The character of Jean Valjean still gives me goose bumps. Perhaps a 21st century musical production would be just as effective?

It would be interesting to find out if and how coming in contact with other works of art influences one’s empathic levels.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Proposed literary fiction for your child

“I cannot remember the books I have read any more than the meals I have eaten; but they have all helped to make me.” (Emerson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read further on the Huffington Post South Africa, a post by Patricia Furstenberg.

Huffington Post SA

South African Oscar Winners & Nominees Over The Years

South African Oscar Winners & Nominees Over The Years

South Africans should take special note on the night of the 90th Academy Awards, as some of this country’s finest are in the running for the Best Animated Short Film category with “Revolting Rhymes“, directed by Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer.
Revolting Rhymes” Trailer:


The film is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s and Quentin Blake’s classic fairy-tale book of the same name. It was produced by Magic Light Pictures and animated by Magic Light’s Berlin studio along with Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation.

The awards ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California, on March 4. Having already won the British Academy Children’s Award for Best Animation, “Revolting Rhymes” will be among the favourites in its category.

This is not the first time South Africa has had representation at the Academy Awards. Over the years, many South Africans have graced the Oscars red carpet, both as nominees and winners, proof of our deep-rooted talent.

Throughout the years many South Africans have won or been nominated to an Oscar, proof that this nation has plenty of deep-rooted talent as well as a good eye for the arts.

Proud South African Oscar wins, nominations and submissions throughout the years

1937 (the 9th Academy Awards Ceremony) – Basil Rathbone (South African born British actor) – Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Romeo and Juliet

1938 – Basil Rathbone – Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, If I Were King

1966 – Ted Moore (South African born cinematographer) – WON the first South African Oscar for A Man For All Seasons.

1972 – Janet Suzman (University of the Witwatersrand’s Alumni) – Nominated for Best Actress, Nicholas and Alexandra

1986 – Caiphus Semenya (South African composer and musician)Nominated for Best Music, Original Score, The Color Purple

1988 – Jonas Gwangwa (important figure in South African jazz for over 40 years) Nominated for Best Music, Original Score, and Best Music, Original Song, Cry Freedom

Watch the Cry Freedom Official Trailer:

IFrame1990 (the 62nd Academy Awards Ceremony) Mapantsula (Zulu, Afrikaans, Sesotho, English), Director Oliver Schmitz – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film. It appeared on the official AMPAS ( Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ) press release in 1989 but not on the 2007 updated list. Therefore Paljas is considered as South Africa’s official first submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category. It is possible that Mapantsula, although submitted,has not been screened for the Foreign Film committee for some reason.

1997 Paljas (Afrikaans) – Director Katinka Heyns – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

2003 – Charlize Theron (a Benoni born South African and American actress and film producer ) – WON Best Actress, the first South African actress to ever win an Oscar, for Monster

Charlize Theron’s 2003 Oscar Win acceptance speech:

IFrameI’m going to thank everybody in South Africa, my home country… And my mom.

2003 – Ronald Harwood (Cape Town-born playwright) – WON for Best Adapted Screenplay, The Pianist Harwood’s love for the theatre and films started when he was a child and his mother took him to the theatre in Cape Town.

2004 Yesterday (the first ever feature-length isiZulu film), Director Darrell Roodt Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film

2005 – Charlize Theron – Nominated for Best Actress, North Country

2005 (78th Academy Awards Ceremony) – Tsotsi – WON Best Foreign Language Film. It was the first non-French-language African film to win in this category

View Tsotsi Official Trailer:

IFrameGavin Hood’s Oscar acceptance speech for Tsotsi, which he directed:

Nkosi sikelele Africa. God bless Africa.

Our stories … are about the human heart and emotion.

2009 Jerusalema (Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Sotho), Director Ralph Ziman – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

2010 White Wedding (Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English), Director Jann Turner – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

2010 District 9, Director Neill Blomkamp (South African–Canadian film director, film producer, screenwriter, and animator) – Nominated for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay (Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell)

District 9, Official Trailer:

2011 Life, Above All (in Northern Sotho), Director Oliver Schmitz – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film, made the January Shortlist. Life, Above All received 10-minutes standing ovations at its world premiere at the 63rd Cannes International Film Festival.

“Life, Above All“, Official Trailer:


2012 Beauty (Afrikaans), Director Oliver Hermanus – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

“Beauty“, Official Trailer:


2013 – Herbert Kretzmer (South African-born English journalist and lyric writer) Nominated for Best Music, Original Song for Les Misérables, song “Suddenly” (together with Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg)

2013 Little One (Zulu), Director Darrell Roodt – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

“Little One”, Official Trailer:


2014 Four Corners (Afrikaans), Director Ian Gabriel – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

“Four Corners“, Official Trailer:


2015 Elelwani (Venda), Director Ntshavheni wa Luruli – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film

2016 – Margaret Sixel (South African-born, Australian film editor )WON Best Film Editing, Mad Max: Fury Road

2016– “The Two of Us” (isiZulu) – directed by Ernest Nkosi – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film.

2017 (89th Academy Awards) – “Noem My Skollie (Call Me Thief), (Afrikaans) – directed by Daryne Joshua – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film.

Noem My Skollie producer, Moshidi Motshegwa, said referring the support the cast and crew received at home :

The greatest affirmation an artist can get is from their own tribe. We are ecstatic to have this affirmation!

The Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film was first awarded in 1956. For its 89th edition there have been 85 submissions from all over the world.

“Noem My Skollie” Official Trailer:


Although South Africa hasn’t brought an Oscar home this year what really matters are the passion and dedication of each actor, director, make-up artist, costume designer, editor, of the entire crew backing-up a motion picture which puts South Africa, proudly, on the Academy Awards map once again.

Initially wrote for the Huffington Post SA in 2017 and updated in 2018, published on 13 February 2018.

You might also enjoy reading:

Amazing Book-To-Movie Adaptations Coming To SA’s Big Screens

5 Medical Symptoms Named After Literary Characters

Art Vibes Exhibition by Heinrich Pelser, Live Performance by Lily and Bear, Ice Cream from Legendairy @ Leaky Tap Craft Exchange