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Pop Culture

How Gilbert Gottfried's iconic 'Iago' voice helped a father connect with his autistic son

The lesser known story behind our favorite cartoon bird.

disney helped with autistic son

Gilbert Gottfried in 2016.

Gilbert Gottfried was a legendary stand-up comic, who somehow managed to pull off bizarre, even crude humor with a sense of lighthearted charm. He also appeared in countless films and TV shows as an actor, including “Saturday Night Live,” “Beverly Hills Cop II” and more recently “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

But for many ’90s kids (myself included) he was quite simply the one, the only … Iago.



Gottfried brought a wisecracking, chaotic Disney parrot to life in a way that no one else could. In fact, fellow “Aladdin” actor Jonathan Freeman credited Gottfried for bringing out his best rendition of the movie’s sinister villain, Jafar.

“My performance was much improved by having had Gilbert as the parrot because I didn’t have to be psychotic. I could let him be psychotic,” Freeman said in an interview for Theater Mania.

And while nearly everyone on the planet might know about Gottfried’s Iago, they might not know how his beloved character helped one father connect once again with his autistic son.


In 2014, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind wrote an article for The New York Times sharing how his son Owen’s regressive autism diagnosis came as a frustrating, confusing and painful shock.

Unlike children born with it, those with regressive autism seem to be developing typically then will suddenly experience a rapid loss in communication and social skills. This meant his once “chatty, energetic” boy stopped speaking. For four years.

In the midst of the family’s upheaval, one saving grace provided comfort and stability: Disney.

Movies such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and even old classics like “Dumbo” and "Bambi” still held Owen’s interest. And eventually, Suskind discovered that they could also be the key to communication.

On his brother Walt’s birthday, Owen used a Disney reference to speak a complex sentence: “Walter doesn’t want to grow up, like Mowgli or Peter Pan.”

Eager to find a way to keep the momentum going, Suskind followed Owen into his room.

As he tiptoed up the stairs, Suskind saw a puppet of Iago, one of Owen’s “favorite characters.”

Owen had been doing lots of Iago echolalia, repeating certain character lines. Echolalia is commonly described as both a symptom of autism and as a point of entry for a parent.

Suskind joked that it was “easy to identify because the character is voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, who talks like a busted Cuisinart.”

Suskind successfully grabbed the Iago puppet, then froze, not knowing what to say. Suddenly, an idea came. “What would Iago say?”

Doing his best Gilbert Gottfried, Suskind started to ask Owen simple questions.

“How ya doin'?”

“How does it feel to be you?”

He must have done a convincing Gottfried impression, because it worked. Owen and “Iago” had a long, heartfelt conversation. Owen even channeled his inner Jafar. They were playing together. A miracle.

“I hear a laugh, a joyful little laugh that I have not heard in many years,” the father wrote.

That breakthrough would eventually lead to Suskind writing a book about the life-changing discovery. He even teamed up with Owen (now all grown up) to adapt the book into a documentary called “Life Animated.

Owen now seems to be a happy, healthy adult (a picture of him next to Gottfried below) with a fulfilling life—and yes, still a love of Disney, thanks in part to a wisecracking, chaotic parrot.

Gottfried’s voice was indeed iconic. But, as with many great artists, it also helped others find their voice. His talent made a lasting positive impact, and he will be missed.

Carsten Vollrath/Canva

Imagine watching your four-tier wedding cake hitting the ground before you even get a bite.

It's quite common for people to fantasize about their wedding day—the ceremony, the bridal party, the dress, the cake—and some people spend months or even years meticulously planning every detail. People even spend thousands of dollars hiring wedding planners to make sure that the big day stays fully organized and all the moving parts come together without a hitch.

But no matter how well you plan, sometimes things that simply can't be predicted happen. And how you and your beloved handle the hitches and glitches on your wedding day can say a lot.

Especially when that hitch or glitch is something major…like watching the beautiful, four-tier wedding cake—the one you spent time choosing and lots of money creating to share with your wedding guests—come crashing to the ground right in front of you.


That's what happened to one couple who eagerly watched as the caterers who were carrying their wedding cake tripped on their way into the room, sending their cake to an untimely demise in spectacular fashion.

The video, shared by @the.sarik on Instagram, is only about 10 seconds long, but it tells a whole beautiful love story in the reactions of both the groom and the bride.

Watch:

First of all, hope those waiters are OK. But secondly, staying calm and making the most of a bad situation is a huge character plus, and this groom clearly has those qualities in spades. You can see in the bride's face that she knows it, too.

"Her eyes show that she knows she got the right guy," wrote one commenter.

"The way he just called her to eat is just phenomenal," shared another.

"'Cake is still cake.' Yelling at those waiters won't solve anything, but it can ruin their whole lives," wrote another. "They know their mistake, and they can be corrected privately. May the reaction of this man be an inspiration to us all, to care for the feelings of other people more than material things."

"Of all the things that could ruin a wedding day, I'm glad the husband knew this didn't have to be one of them," shared another.

When unpredictable things do happen, it's largely the reaction of the people involved that determines whether they become tragic tales or entertaining stories. If what we saw in the video is any indicator, this couple will be telling their grandkids someday about how the guys carrying their wedding cake tripped and ruined it, and how Grandpa's response won Grandma's heart all over again.


This article originally appeared on 7.27.23

Sustainability

Scientists tested 3 popular bottled water brands for nanoplastics using new tech, and yikes

The results were alarming—an average of 240,000 nanoplastics per 1 liter bottle—but what does it mean for our health?

Suzy Hazelwood/Canva

Columbia University researchers tested bottled water for nanoplastics and found hundreds of thousands of them.

Evian, Fiji, Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani—it's impressive how many brands we have for something humans have been consuming for millennia. Despite years of studies showing that bottled water is no safer to drink than tap water, Americans are more consuming more bottled water than ever, to the tune of billions of dollars in bottled water sales.

People cite convenience and taste in addition to perceived safety for reasons they prefer bottle to tap, but the fear factor surrounding tap water is still a driving force. It doesn't help when emergencies like floods cause tap water contamination or when investigations reveal issues with lead pipes in some communities, but municipal water supplies are tested regularly, and in the vast majority of the U.S., you can safely grab a glass of water from a tap.

And now, a new study on nanoplastics found in three popular bottled water brands is throwing more data into the bottled vs. tap water choice.

Researchers from Columbia University used a new laser-guided technology to detect nanoplastics that had previously evaded detection due to their miniscule size. The new technology can detect, count and analyze and chemical structure of nanoparticles, and they found seven different major types of plastic: polyamide, polypropylene, polyethylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate.

In contrast to a 2018 study that found around 300 plastic particles in an average liter of bottled water, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January of 2024 found 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter bottle on average between the three brands studied. (The name of the brands were not indicated in the study.)

As opposed to microplastics, nanoplastics are too small to be seen by microscope. Their size is exactly why experts are concerned about them, as they are small enough to invade human cells and potentially disrupt cellular processes.

“Micro and nanoplastics have been found in the human placenta at this point. They’ve been found in human lung tissues. They’ve been found in human feces; they’ve been found in human blood,” study coauthor Phoebe Stapleton, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy told CNN Health,

We know that nanoplastics are making their way into our bodies. We just don't have enough research yet on what that means for our health, and we still have more questions than answers. How many nanoplastics does it take to do damage and/or cause disease? What kinds of damage or disease might they cause? Is whatever effect they might have cumulative? We simply don't have answers to these questions yet.

That's not to say there's no cause for concern. We do know that certain levels of microplastic exposure have been shown to adversely affect the viability of cells. Nanoplastics are even smaller—does that mean they are more likely to cause cellular damage? Science is still working that out.

According to Dr. Sara Benedé of the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute of Food Science Research, it's not just the plastics themselves that might cause damage, but what they may bring along with them. “[Microparticles and nanoparticles] have the ability to bind all kinds of compounds when they come into contact with fluids, thus acting as carriers of all kinds of substances including environmental pollutants, toxins, antibiotics, or microorganisms,” Dr. Benedé told Medical News Today.

Where is this plastic in water coming from? This study focused on bottled water, which is almost always packaged in plastic. The filters used to filter the water before bottling are also frequently made from plastic.

Is it possible that some of these nanoplastics were already present in the water from their original sources? Again, research is always evolving on this front, but microplastics have been detected in lakes, streams and other freshwater sources, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that nanoplastics may be making their way into freshwater ecosystems as well. However, microplastics are found at much higher levels in bottled water than tap water, so it's also not a stretch to assume that most of the nanoplastics are likely coming from the bottling process and packaging rather than from freshwater sources.

The reality is, though, we simply don't know yet.

“Based on other studies we expected most of the microplastics in bottled water would come from leakage of the plastic bottle itself, which is typically made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic,” lead author Naixin Qian, a doctoral student in chemistry at Columbia University, told CNN Health. “However, we found there’s actually many diverse types of plastics in a bottle of water, and that different plastic types have different size distributions. The PET particles were larger, while others were down to 200 nanometers, which is much, much smaller.”

We need to drink water, and we need to drink safe water. At this point, we have plenty of environmental reasons for avoiding bottled water unless absolutely necessary and opting for tap water instead. Even if there's still more research to be done, the presence of hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics in bottled water might just be another reason to make the switch.


This article originally appeared on 2.2.24

A map of the United States post land-ice melt.


Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

But what if it was all just ... gone? Not like gone gone, but melted?


If all of earth's land ice melted, it would be nothing short of disastrous.

And that's putting it lightly.

This video by Business Insider Science (seen below) depicts exactly what our coastlines would look like if all the land ice melted. And spoiler alert: It isn't great.

Lots of European cities like, Brussels and Venice, would be basically underwater.

In Africa and the Middle East? Dakar, Accra, Jeddah — gone.

Millions of people in Asia, in cities like Mumbai, Beijing, and Tokyo, would be uprooted and have to move inland.

South America would say goodbye to cities like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

And in the U.S., we'd watch places like Houston, San Francisco, and New York City — not to mention the entire state of Florida — slowly disappear into the sea.

All GIFs via Business Insider Science/YouTube.

Business Insider based these visuals off National Geographic's estimation that sea levels will rise 216 feet (!) if all of earth's land ice melted into our oceans.

There's even a tool where you can take a detailed look at how your community could be affected by rising seas, for better or worse.

Although ... looking at these maps, it's hard to imagine "for better" is a likely outcome for many of us.

Much of America's most populated regions would be severely affected by rising sea levels, as you'll notice exploring the map, created by Alex Tingle using data provided by NASA.

Take, for instance, the West Coast. (Goodbye, San Fran!)

Or the East Coast. (See ya, Philly!)

And the Gulf Coast. (RIP, Bourbon Street!)

I bring up the topic not just for funsies, of course, but because the maps above are real possibilities.

How? Climate change.

As we continue to burn fossil fuels for energy and emit carbon into our atmosphere, the planet gets warmer and warmer. And that, ladies and gentlemen, means melted ice.

A study published this past September by researchers in the U.S., U.K., and Germany found that if we don't change our ways, there's definitely enough fossil fuel resources available for us to completely melt the Antarctic ice sheet.

Basically, the self-inflicted disaster you see above is certainly within the realm of possibility.

"This would not happen overnight, but the mind-boggling point is that our actions today are changing the face of planet Earth as we know it and will continue to do so for tens of thousands of years to come," said lead author of the study Ricarda Winkelmann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

If we want to stop this from happening," she says, "we need to keep coal, gas, and oil in the ground."

The good news? Most of our coastlines are still intact! And they can stay that way, too — if we act now.

World leaders are finallystarting to treat climate change like the global crisis that it is — and you can help get the point across to them, too.

Check out Business Insider's video below:

This article originally appeared on 12.08.15

Photo from Facebook.

Anna Trupiano educates on passing gas in public.

Anna Trupiano is a first-grade teacher at a school that serves deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing students from birth through eighth grade.

In addition to teaching the usual subjects, Trupiano is charged with helping her students thrive in a society that doesn't do enough to cater to the needs of the hard-of-hearing.


Recently, Trupiano had to teach her students about a rather personal topic: passing gas in public.

A six-year-old child farted so loud in class that some of their classmates began to laugh. The child was surprised by their reaction because they didn't know farts make a sound. This created a wonderful and funny teaching moment for Trupiano.

Trupiano shared the conversation on Facebook.

1st grade, farts, passing gas

"Wait, they can hear all farts?!?!"

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

deaf, education, funny

An education reduced to conversations on farts.

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

hard of hearing, vapors, gas

The discerning listener.

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

While the discussion Trupiano had with her students was funny, it points to a serious problem faced by the deaf community. "I know it started with farts, but the real issue is that many of my students aren't able to learn about these things at home or from their peers because they don't have the same linguistic access," she told GOOD.

"So many of my students don't have families who can sign well enough to explain so many things it's incredibly isolating for these kids," she continued.

Trupiano hopes her funny story about bodily functions will inspire others to become more involved with the deaf community by learning sign language.

"I would love to see a world where my students can learn about anything from anyone they interact with during their day," she told GOOD. "Whether that means learning about the solar system, the candy options at a store, or even farts, it would be so great for them to have that language access anywhere they go."

Interested in learning ASL? Here's a great list of places you can start.

While the discussion Tupiano had with her students was funny, it points to a serious problem faced by the deaf community. "I know it started with farts, but the real issue is that many of my students aren't able to learn about these things at home or from their peers because they don't have the same linguistic access," she told GOOD.

"So many of my students don't have families who can sign well enough to explain so many things it's incredibly isolating for these kids," she continued.

Tupiano hopes her funny story about bodily functions will inspire others to become more involved with the deaf community by learning sign language.

"I would love to see a world where my students can learn about anything from anyone they interact with during their day," she told GOOD. "Whether that means learning about the solar system, the candy options at a store, or even farts, it would be so great for them to have that language access anywhere they go."

Intersted in learning ASL? Here's a great list of places you can start.


This article originally appeared on 12.14.18

Science

She tattooed half her face and you'd never know it. Her skills are just that good.

This incredible medical tattoo technology is giving renewed hope to burn victims.

All images via the CBS/YouTube

Basma Hameed runs a tattoo shop, of sorts...


Meet Samira Omar.

The 17-year-old was the victim of a horrific bullying incident.



A group of girls threw boiling water on her, leaving her badly burned and covered in scars and discoloration.

tattoo shop, hate crime, artistry

17-year-old Samira Omar

All images by CBC News/YouTube

She thought the physical scars would be with her forever — until she met Basma Hameed. Basma Hameed runs a tattoo shop, of sorts — but her tattoo artistry doesn't look like you'd expect. Basma is a paramedical tattoo specialist. Instead of tattooing vibrant, colorful designs, she uses special pigments that match the skin in order to conceal scars.

It looks like this:

human condition, diversity, equality

Basma looking at Samira’s facial scarring.

assets.rebelmouse.io

disabilities, health, reproductive rights,

Basma talking over the procedure.

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body image, scarring, community

Visible scars and discoloration of the skin.

assets.rebelmouse.io

humanity, culture, treatment

Tattooing the visible scarring on her hand

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With Basma's help, patients like Samira can see a dramatic decrease in their scar visibility and discoloration after a few treatments. She even offers free procedures for patients who are unable to afford treatment. That's because Basma knows firsthand just how life-changing her work can be for those coping with painful scars left behind.

Check out the video below to find out more about Basma's practice, including how she became her very first patient.

This article originally appeared on 01.12.15