Articles by " Andrew"
22 Aug
2014

Pluto Demotion/Vesuvius Day- A Tragic Tale

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It looked kind of like this, but less ghost town-y.

It all began a long, long time ago. Like, a really long time ago. Enough that you can't remember, and neither can your Grandpappy. The scene opens to Pompeii, in the Roman Empire circa 79 AD. The fair (and slightly slutty) people of Pompeii are walking around, minding their own business, talking about the God Jupiter and his rippling biceps. The Doctor and Donna Noble are currently battling some baddies hiding out in the local volcano and, amidst the the fight, start the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. As it turned out, the god Vulcan was in a fowl mood and decided that he was going to smite the little turds that crawled around his workshop. The volcano explodes as has never been seen before by man, with a huge column of smoke and ash shooting into the sky. Land slides are hurtling towards the city, and people are losing their shit (more literally for those caught unawares in the privy).

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Then later it looked a lot like this.

While the Doctor is rescuing his TARDIS, companions and future Doctor #12 Peter Capaldi, Mount Vesuvius gives a huge belch and shoots an enormous circular object into the sky, so hard and far that it goes into space. The velocity sends the object far out into the reaches of the solar system, until it flies by Neptune and thinks "This seems like a lovely place to stop and chill for awhile, LET'S ORBIT! ( Suddenly DUBSTEP starts playing in background as the object and its debris homies bust a move). As this huge object floats in space, it decides it wants to be a planet: "If those giant blueberry farts can be planets, so can I!" And so Pluto came into existence.

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Look at this adorable Pluto Demoted Day card we have with all the other planets being like, "Naw, Pluto, you gotta go, you little creep!"

For almost 2000 years, Pluto orbited the sun like that annoying guy who follows you around at a party. He would often try and get closer, trying to be best friends with the local planets and then getting into huge arguments with them over his size. This would ultimately send Pluto on an ovacular orbit, passing Neptune in an orbital resonance that let them not collide and be buddy buddy, and then would drift far away when things didn't go his way. In the meantime, Pluto would talk smack about all of the other planets, telling all those he could about his wonder and splendor deep in space. He could often be heard "The Sun can't touch this!", as if the Sun didn't have feelings. It didn't help that Pluto would be discovered (or rediscovered, depending on who simultaneously survived the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and noticed the volcano cannonball Pluto into space) by an Earthen astronomer known as Clyde W. Tombaugh. This poor chap did not know what can of worms he was opening up by officially recognizing his discovery as a planet, for his discovery made Pluto an even bigger cocky turd, and also caused an argument that ran for decades on whether or not it was actually a planet.  On August 24th 2006, the International Astronomical Union met and decided that Pluto didn't meet their criteria to continue as a regular planet, and was demoted to Dwarf Planet status. This also created the definition of Plutoid, as in other space objects relative in size to the planet formally known as Pluto. As you can imagine Pluto was bummed. But don't fret! He is being kept company by a small host of newly discovered moons and is most certainly in good company. His ego has admittedly been deflated.

What did Vesuvius think of all of this? Well, he erupted a couple more times, most recently in 1906 and 1944. This was presumably in celebration of his little boo boo becoming a planet. To keep him wistfully sleeping away the years since, we celebrate Mt. Vesuvius Day. This is ironic because it simultaneously celebrates this awesome feat of nature's, soothes the ego of a giant geographical pimple, as well as commemorate the death of thousands of poor unsuspecting residents of Pompeii back in 79. A.D. As for Pluto Demotion Day? Well...he had it coming.

13 Aug
2014

Comedy is not pretty

Steve Martin is a great example of the American Dream. Seriously, look at this magnificent bastard

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What a hotty.

We're going Crack'd style here. Here are 4 awesome things about Steve Martin.

4.He's an Author

During one of his many different life ventures, Martin has written several books and plays, to much acclaim. His first venture as a playwright was called "Picasso at the Lapin Agile." His novels have included "Shop Girl", "An Object of Beauty", and his poignant memoir "Born Standing Up."  Why is this awesome? Well keep reading, by the time you realize everything Steve Martin has done in his life, your brain will hurt.

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3.He's Also an Accomplished Movie Actor

There is not much to say that you don't already know about Steve Martin the actor. He has been in every realm of film, from his breakout performance in "The Jerk" to the romantic comedy stylings of "Father of the Bride." We cannot deny that Martin's best movies are his comedies, most especially "Three Amigos" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."

 

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Steve needs a car...right now...you know what happened

2. He's a Fantastic Comedian

Steve Martin gained fame starting out as a world class comedian. He started by working with several different comedy groups, writing for various TV shows and performing at nightclubs to hone his skills. This led him to SNL, and ushered in the golden years of late night comedy. This launch in fame helped when he started touring the comedy circuit and released his first album, "Let's Get Small." The album went on to be a platinum smash hit, and Martin became a household name. Never before has a comedian took the world by storm, but Martin was one of the first in his field to perform in sold out theatres, a phenomenon at the time. He would release several other albums, all of which were huge of critical acclaim and success. His style was never seen before, being very random and sporadic but poignant and full of satirical wit.  He would also incorporate a banjo into his stand up with his other shtick, often performing songs he wrote for his audiences. Martin abruptly left the stand up world for good, wishing to pursue his real dream of being an actor.

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Seriously, look at that face.

1.He's a Kick-Ass Musician

Oddly enough, Martin's wild success as a comedian and then an actor couldn't sate his desire to be awesome at more stuff. His next big venture was into the world of music as a banjo player. For those who have never heard Martin play banjo, youtube that shit right now. He is an incredible musician, writing a lot of his material and performing with other famous bluegrass musicians such as Earl Scruggs. He has released several albums containing both traditional and original banjo music with his band The Steep Canyon Rangers, the first of which won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.

Bonus fact!  Stece Martin's birthday is August 14th!  So...

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Happy Birthday you boss.

 

 

 

 

29 Jul
2014

Dearest J.K./H.P

J.K. Rowling is my hero. For the matter, she is probably your hero too, and if not she should be. But why is she so special? In celebration of her birthday, here are five reasons J.K. Rowling is the queen.

5. Rowling began writing Harry Potter during the lowest time of her life: struggling to make ends meet, a single mother with no support, and clinically depressed. Imagine trying to hold onto any semblance of hope while struggling to provide for your baby. Scary right?

4. Dementors. The pure essence of evil and one of the most feared characters in the "Harry Potter" series, Dementors were an allegory for Rowlings' depression during her life as a struggling single mother. Dementors themselves are a cool concept, but what really makes this so special is the Rowling created something that we can all relate to. Depression sucks the happiness and life right out of you, removing any will to keep living. While many of us know what that feeling is like, few authors have ever been able to visualize it with such vivid terror.

3. J.K. has not stopped working, even after the wild success of "Harry Potter" made her one of the richest women in the world. Rowling continues to work, as she has often said, to be a good role model for her children. Her first entry into the literary world post-Potter was "A Casual Vacancy." A lovely investigation into small village life in rural England, many criticized the book as being droll and slow.  This was mainly because the title did not include "Harry Potter." Some believed it was a huge smear on her career, until Rowling tricked all of us when she assumed the name:

2. Robert Galbraith. In one of the great "holy shit" moments of the year, the world opened up the new crime novel,"The Cuckoo's Calling" by a seemingly unknown author, to find out that it was in fact written by J.K. Rowling. Even before the reveal, the book was a smash hit and instantly became a bestseller. Finding out that the person behind the curtain was Rowling just about made the literary worlds' collective head burst. There was no doubt about her writing chops now, and it is most definitely a great read. The sequel, "The Silkworm", was just released this year to more acclaim.

All of these things are great reasons to love J.K. Rowling, but in truth there is one massive reason that J.K. Rowling is the best:

1.Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived. I mean this one in the literal sense, as in Harry Potter the person. We meet Harry as a young baby, taken from the rubble of his former home and his dead parents, made to live with his horrible aunt and uncle. It is on his eleventh birthday that Harry discovers that he is a wizard, and is plunged into a world of magic and epic adventure. But let us look at the boy himself. All throughout the series, Harry is as selfless as he possibly can. Sure, there are the usual teenager moments but he never puts himself before any of his friends and loved ones. Harry is essentially an outcast, having not grown up with other children like himself and always feeling worthless. He has suffered great tragedy in his life, never knowing his parents and entering the magical world knowing that someone perpetually wants to kill him. He faces these terrors with his head high, never taking the cowards way out and showing how love overcomes all. There are an extraordinary amount of themes that play into Harry's life, many of which are relatable to those who read about it. I remember reading Harry Potter and feeling a connection to that poor kid who started out life not having friends and never feeling like he belonged. But he overcame these obstacles and more, and set an example for us to follow. I think I can speak for everyone in that Harry helped all of us in one way or another, whether it was in providing literary enjoyment or literally saving our lives. For this, a happy birthday to Ms. J.K. Rowling, and to our beloved Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived.

16 Jul
2014

A Gonzo Birthday

The ashes formerly known as Hunter S. Thompson are turning 77 today (July 18th)! What a guy, what a guy, such an honest soul, and a prolific honest man of truth. TRUTH. What is that anyway? An enduring concept or is it just reality slapping you you in the face. The latter of which is how Gonzo filtered into the world circa 1960’s-1970’s Hunter S. Thompson. DELETE DELETE DELETE, have you ever tried to write something perfectly the first time and failed like nobody’s business? Ya, that just happened. Gonzo is not for the weak at heart, batteries not included. I love the bastard's writing. I am reading “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” currently, and spend my evenings either reconsidering my stance on drug and alcohol usage, laughing in a perverse shrill that haunts my apartment, or pondering my navel. Shush, nobody has to know. No navels were hurt in the making of this blog. And back to our inflight movie. Thompson! An incredible writer, truth in satire, wit without compromise. God, how it must have felt to experience the world through those eyes.
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Yes, these eyes.
Thompson (forget the first name and middle initial, I can’t be held responsible when twisted into a slinky) was a journalist and writer from the 1960's until his death in 2005. He would regularly contribute to many magazines and newspapers, none more so than Rolling Stone (before it was hip and then really hip and then blithely unhip again in the Bieber days). In Rolling Stone, Thompson was one of the only non-musical writers on staff, and would regularly contribute his on personal style of journalism while exploring politics and counter cultures in America. The name of his war cry would be called “Gonzo”, a style of writing that is similar to a stream of consciousness, placing the author in the center of the action rather than writing from above in an invisible hot air balloon. Also, the author was often the instigator of the action, writing about the happenings as they would occur. A great and bizarre example is “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, in which our hero of the day, Raoul Duke (Thompson) and his lawyer Dr. Gonzo (some Samoan lawyer), drive to Vegas to find the American Dream while covering the Mint 400 race. So of course, they completely blow off the race and experiment with mind bending drugs like LSD (hello pink lemon lizards), ether (can you feel your face, I highly doubt it), cocaine (snort hard, snort far, and your dreams will smell like blood) and booze (also known as breakfast). This is a drawing made for the occasion of the publishing of Fear Vegas (again, not responsible for things like titles when there is a SQUID ON THE WALL CAPS LOCK WHY YOU SO ANGRY) by Thompson’s close friend and partner in crime in his article “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”, Ralph Steadman.
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Steadman was one trippy ballsack. Don’t you just feel the drugs settling in?
You may have noticed that the previous two paragraphs are pretty out there. In honor of Mr. Thompson, I wanted to experiment with writing in the Gonzo style. Admittedly, no one can be as perverse or oddly charming as Thompson was. Even with the drugs and booze, he was a prolific writer of politics, following many campaign trails throughout the seventies. He would also explore culture and counter culture, ranging from the psychedelic drug scene on the west coast to sports to the new generations versus the old to riding with the Hells Angels. Thompson is brutally honest in his writing, not sparing anyone in his path. Famously, he absolutely hated Richard Nixon. Really, hate is a soft word for the absolute disgust this man had for Nixon, as can be seen in his book "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. Nixon’s one redeeming quality for Thompson? Football. Go figure. Other interesting occurrences were travels in Puerto Rico (which produced the Rum Diaries) and in South America. Rather horrifyingly, Thompson took a job reporting on the war in Vietnam, and arrived in Saigon to find that the job had been scrubbed just as American troops were evacuating the country. Rough right?
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After a failed trip to report on a boxing match in Africa, our intrepid writer began reducing  his output during the 80's up through his death. Fame itself seemed to get to Thompson, who did not want to write just because it was expected of him. Never wanting to live to an age of dullness and infirmity (amongst other reasons), Thompson committed suicide on his ranch in February 2005. To commemorate his life, friends and family gathered to give him a proper send off in the form of Thompson’s last wish: his ashes were shot out of a canon on top of a massive monument of a double thumbed fist (the symbol for Gonzo) with red, white, blue, and green fireworks, all to the tune of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" and Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." It is in the honor of this bizarre, brutally intelligent and incredible writer that we say happy birthday to Hunter S. Thompson. Cheers.
2 Jul
2014

Air Condition Appreciation Days

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Air Condition Appreciation Days. From July 3-August 15, we take time to be grateful for this marvel of modern ingenuity. It is therefore mandatory that you bow before your almighty unit of cooling goodness once a day, as to not anger the A/C powers that be and make the summer hotter. Can you imagine what life would be like without these beautiful machines? They suck in warm air, cool it, and then pump it through your house, making you feel all cozy under a blanket (paradoxically redundant when you think about how hot it is outside). We all know the feeling, you're sitting inside all nice and cool, and then you step outside. That is when the world comes crashing down and you start to feel like the Wicked Witch of the West. #Melting.

 

 

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All hope is lost

Actually, a lot of us know life without A/C. Living in a dorm, a small apartment, or any place that didn't install a unit to save money. There is no shame in it, it costs an arm and a leg, and they break down when it gets really hot outside. Then your apartment turns into a proverbial swamp of sadness, drenching you in the sweat of your displeasure. Those who have lived in one or more of these places know of the harsh realities: the ungodly heat, the unimaginable stench, and the rampant swamp ass.

 

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Yes, swamp ass. You know, when your pants get overly sweaty, causing you to 1.) Feel like you messed yourself and 2.)Itch in the most unreachable places. Gross right? So crank up that A/C, sit down, be grateful for a working unit, and wish for the first day of winter….Just kidding, if you wish for winter, your air conditioning will break and you will turn into goo. Let’s not have anymore of that winter bullshit. But for real, if you don't have A/C or are trying to get your electric bill down, get moving to a store in Shadyside, possibly one called Kards Unlimited, and enjoy a loving cool breeze....and maybe buy some awesome stuff  ;)

 

24 Jun
2014

Happy Birthday George Orwell!

Eric Arthur Blair was one of the most profile writers of the 20th century. He was a novelist, a critic, and a journalist. He wrote about his experiences as an Imperial Police Officer in Burma, social and political issues of the day, and satire of totalitarian regimes he knew during his life. Two of his most successful books created their own subculture, including new concepts like Big Brother, thought crime, and double think. There is even an instance when Stalinist Russia gets ragged (I use that term lightly) on via farm animals. Smart guy right? Although the name Eric Arthur Blair sounds good, it doesn’t quite pack the punch he wanted to represent his work. It makes sense then that he would write the oeuvre of his works under the nom-de-plume of George Orwell….Actually, he picked the psydonuem so that he wouldn’t bring shame to his family while he was slumming on the streets of London and Paris (for a book of course). A gentlemen and a scholar. 

 

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George Orwell was born in British occupied India on June 25th, 1903, later moving with his family back to England. He was apparently a lax student, mainly because he was so damn smart already that he didn’t need that school stuff anyway. The one time Orwell was really interested was while he was at Eton. It was here that two literary titans would cross paths in a completely unrelated situation, long before they were well known. This was when Orwell took French from none other than Aldous Huxley, at the time an undisciplined hot mess of a language professor. Apart from this fact, Orwell and his colleagues were quite taken by Huxleys' deft linguistic skills. No one knew that these two people, Orwell and Huxley, would both become famous for their takes on dystopian society in their novels “1984” and “Brave New World" (albeit how different each take was). While finishing at Eton, Orwell had rather romantic ideas of the East, and having some family in the region, joined the Imperial Police and relocated to Burma. It was here that Orwell first encountered the darker side of British Colonialism, to which he based his novel Burmese Days on. He would eventually leave the service for good, returning to Europe for good.
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Enter London, 1927. It's night, the impoverished of the East End are trying to find some scraps to feed on and find somewhere to sleep. We come upon a man in tattered clothing, but he seems more intrigued in his surroundings than he does in finding food. Is that a notebook in his pocket? Yes it is. And yes, this is indeed what George Orwell was doing back in England in 1927. Orwell became obsessed with the life and struggles of the poor in the city. He would also explore the life of the impoverished on the streets of Paris, working menial jobs and waiting in breadlines. At the same time, Orwell would write essays for different publications, giving a first hand look into the world we could never understand. Orwell even got drunk once and tried to get arrested so that he could experience Christmas in prison. All of this would eventually be turned into Orwell’s first book, “Down and Out in Paris and London.” Think about that for a second- the man lived on the streets to experience what it meant to be hungry, work for pennies, and slum for a living.  Dedication for your craft, solidarity for your people.
Orwell moved around quite a lot during these years, living in several different towns and holding several different positions. Some of these included working in a bookstore, teaching, and contributing reviews to journals. Between 1932-1936, Orwell wrote three novels, “The Clergyman’s Daughter”, “Keep the Aspidistra Flying”, and “The Road to Wigan Pier.” It was in 1936 that he became embroiled in the Spanish Civil War, taking side with the Republicans in Catalonia. His time here would later be written in his book, “Homage to Catalonia.” In short, Orwell went to join the cause to defeat fascism, but in the end became disheartened by the in-fighting amongst the rebels, primarily by the twisted turns the Soviet-backed Communist took during the war. Orwell was wounded in action, barley escaping with his life, and fled with his wife back to England. We begin to see a pattern here, with the romanticization of an idea and the horrors of what actually happens; first in Burma and then during the Spanish Civil War.
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There are many more aspects of Orwell’s life that we could look into, the above just being some that many people don’t know about. Many of us do know his two most famous works, “Animal Farm” and “1984.” What was it that made these books in particular so popular? I would leave that for you, the readers, to decide. But here is my opinion. These two books combated ideas that were terrifying in the days in which they were written. "Animal Farm" is a satire on the rise of Stalinist-Communisim. “1984” is a a tale of a dark, dystopian world that is set in a world in which Russia went on to conquer all of Europe. Orwell was, in his own right, a Social Democrat. To the uninformed today, this sends red flags nowadays but it does not mean the same thing as Communism, and most certainly not the tyrannical Communism Stalin implemented. He firmly believed in Democracy and social justice, and wrote about the hypocrisy in the political systems he was surrounded by. Orwell always stood up for what he believed in and was extremely influential in the way he was able to convey them, whether it was in his essays or in his novels. For always standing up for his beliefs, and for opening many of us to new ways to look at the world, I’d like to take a moment and wish a very happy birthday to George Orwell. May we make him proud and not let 2+2=5.
11 Jun
2014

Happy birthday Dorothy Sayers!

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This is Dorothy L. Sayers, a renowned crime novelist, translator, feminist and all around badass and June 13th is her birthday!  She is most famous for her novels involving the sleuth Lord Peter Whimsey, and is renowned for her translation of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy.” But who was she really? Let’s investigate. Prepare your monocles. 
 
Dorothy Sayers started out in life as a student of medieval and modern languages. She received a scholarship to attend Somerville College, Oxford, and was one of the first women in Britain to receive an actual degree (several years after her graduation). After working for a publishing company and teaching in France, Sayers began work as a copywriter at S.H. Benson Advertising in London. During her ten year’s at the agency, Sayers was responsible for several ads that are still used or varied upon today, including the Guinness “Zoo” campaign.  
 
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Lord Peter Whimsey, making you wish you could be as cool as he is right there
It was around the beginning of her advertising career in 1921 that Sayers also began her first crime novel, “Whose Body?” It is here that we meet Lord Peter Whimsey, the quintessential distinguished British gentlemen. He is good looking, wildly intelligent, athletically skilled, and just for kicks solves crimes. Throughout his eleven novels, Lord Peter acts as a combination of exquisite English taste and rambunctious scoundrel. Sayers made of point of evolving Lord Peter as a real person, aging in real time along with herself, and gave him real life issues to deal with amongst his investigations. This comes to a peak when he meets the criminal novelist Harriet Vane, who brings an end to Lord Peter Whimsey in the throes of matrimony. 
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Lord Peter's car, Mrs. Merdle. Fighting crime has never been done so stylishly.
Sayers not only explored the world of crime with Lord Peter, but also delved into intriguing and often relevant issues of the day in her novels. Her book “Murder Must Advertise” explores ethics in advertising; the struggles of World War One veterans in “Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club”; and cryptanalysis and ciphers are explored in “Have His Carcase.”  A more controversial subject was broached in the novel “Gaudy Night”, in which Sayers (and Lord Peter) advocate for women’s education, as well as rebuking the rising Nazi Doctrine of "Kinder, Kirch, Küche” (the restriction of women to just household functions). This novel is often described as the first “feminist crime novel.” 
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So why should we care about some random British lady's birthday? Dorothy Sayers was a multifaceted writer and activist.  She was a successful writer of popular crime novels. She was a noted copywriter, a well respected translator whose work is still in print today, and a voice for women’s rights.  In an age when women’s rights were ignored all over the world, Sayers wrote essays in support of women’s education and civil liberties. She didn’t stand by and wait for someone else to speak up, she was right there on the front lines. This is someone I both respect and admire. For this, a most happy birthday to Dorothy L. Sayers. 
4 Jun
2014

National Doughnut Day is Coming June 6th!

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I think I heard your stomach growl just from reading the title. We all know about doughnuts. Circular in shape with the center poked out, deep fried and coated in a variety of different toppings, doughnuts are truly incredible to behold. Doughnuts come in all shapes and sizes: glazed, chocolate, powdered, cream filled, jelly filled, unfilled, whole, holeless, hole-ly exclusive, sprinkled, dusted, extra deep fried, half and half, coffee flavored, and so on and so delicious.

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One would think that the birth of the National Doughnut Day (June 6th this year) would have been as a corporate holiday, a way to boost sales and popularity. So what would you say if I told you that the National Doughnut Day was created in 1938 to honor volunteer's bringing doughnuts troops during World War One? Yes,  a group of brave men and women would travel to hostile environments and war zones to bring soldiers supplies and refreshments of a sweeter nature.That sounds like my kind of hero!

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The morale of the soldiers was immediately boosted and the provisions of doughnuts became extremely popular.  It really is the small things in life, especially when you’re living in the trenches of France circa 1917. This tradition continued into World War Two as well, with the Red Cross sending in women to deliver doughnuts to the troops. These amazing women would come be lovingly known as "Doughtnut Dollies." Imagine the scene- you've been fighting your way across the Europe, and then you return to camp to find a giant box of circular joy smelling like home.  It is in their honor that we continue to celebrate National Doughnut Days.

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Today, this holiday has become very good for consumers and business alike. Shops market themselves by  offering free doughnuts and discounts in celebration, and we the consumers benefit from what can only be described as a second Christmas. Our storefront here in Shadyside is directly across the street from Prantl’s Bakery, and the smell is irresistible. So if you aren’t doing anything this Friday, or even if you are, head out to a Dunkin’ Donuts, Prantl’s, or any bakery and celebrate the one day of the year that you don’t have to feel bad  about eating that extra donut in the middle of the afternoon.

 

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