Who opened the first roadside Christmas tree stand? Where did that Christmas pickle thing come from? Who was the real-life inspiration for the character of the Grinch? In this week’s mental_floss List Show, John Green gets to the bottom of how some of our Christmas traditions began. I was surprised to find that mistletoe isn’t even a native plant in America! But nothing compares to the very last bit of trivia -how our artificial Christmas trees got their particular form.
Beauty and the Beast
What would Little Red Riding Hood and the Little Mermaid look like if drawn in the manga style of modern East Asia? Na Young Wu, a Korean artist, shows us. Her Twitter feed offers us refreshingly different takes on these Western folktale characters.
This short film is about a man who builds boats by hand in the small town of Kjerringøy, Norway, north of the Arctic Circle where you don’t see the sun in winter. Ulf Mikalsen lives a particularly simple yet awesome life, sailing the fjords amidst breathtaking scenery, living happily among family and friends, and singing songs. And for a 62-year-old man, he looks pretty good skinny dipping.
Ulf has his own website, which is in Norwegian, but the photographs are gorgeous, and more at Facebook. -via Metafilter
The Elf On The Shelf seemingly appeared out of nowhere and instantly became a standard Christmastime character, but what do we actually know about that little toy elf with the mischievous smile?
We know he started out as a character from Carol Aebersold's self published book The Elf On The Shelf: A Christmas Tradition, where the sneaky little guy is revealed to be one of Santa's spies in the mortal realm.
We also know that he likes to speak in rhymes, and that the illustrations by Coe Steinwart really brought the character to life, so much so that people wished to bring a little elf home to their shelf, thus beginning the Elf on the Shelf doll craze:
Fans of the book really should have thought twice before wishing that sneaky little guy would come to life, and subsequently letting him into their homes, because that little elf has some dark secrets which need to come to light:
The Elf on the Shelf wasn't always on the Naughty list- he started out as quite the do-gooder and nice guy, but he grew bored of sitting on shelves and working for The Man so he started acting out against his host families:
Fame went straight to his head, but with fame comes a feeling of isolation from the rest of the toys. The Elf began to reevaluate his role in the Christmastime world, and soon he had set his sights on spreading chaos and mischief around instead of gifts and cheer:
CineFix gave their 8-bit Cinema treatment to the classic A Christmas Story. Eight-bit Ralphie runs around his little Indiana town scheming about how to get the message out regarding the Christmas present he so dearly wants: an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. -Via Laughing Squid
(Photo: The Barn Door/Eric Kodner)
Madeline Island is one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. There's regular ferry service to it from Bayfield, Wisconsin. But when the lake freezes, residents use this type of vehicle to travel to and from the island. It's called an "ice angel" or "windsled."
It's an enclosed iceboat. Fans on the back push it over the surface. Although there's an ice road that Madeline Island's residents can drive cars over, many find the ice angel safer.
This is 1 of 10 unusual forms of public transportation rounded up by When on Earth. Others include amphibious vehicles in London and toboggans in Madeira.
Before you go see the final film of the Hobbit trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies, take a look back at the previous film with Screen Junkies. Here’s their Honest Trailer take on the second movie of Peter Jackson’s opus, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. After watching this video, you might even think twice about fighting the theater lines for the opening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies today. After all, it will probably be available in multiple showings over the next few weeks. -via Geeks Are Sexy
(Photos: Pop-Up City)
This modified Ford E250 van is the main customer service port of Safe 'n' Secure Cellutions, a business in Brooklyn. Jhonn de La Puente, the owner, established the company to cleverly exploit an everyday market that most people might not consider.
Most American teenagers have cell phones, but many schools do not permit students to have cell phones on campus. La Puente parks his van outside of a high school in the morning. He offers to hold students' cell phones inside his van until they pick them up from him in the afternoon. The service costs $1 per phone. La Puente typically holds 100 phones per day.
They're from different times, with totally different senses of style and radically different attitudes, but they all have one crucial thing in common- they really know how to pop on the screen! When The Doctor takes center stage fans can't take their eyes off of him, and no matter what he's wearing, or who he has by his side, he's always ahead of his time and ruling the sci-fi world like a total lord!
Celebrate all thirteen incarnations of your favorite sci-fi hero with this Doctors-Pop t-shirt by JohnLucke, it'll add some artistic color to your geeky wardrobe and make your fellow Whovians smile and nod with approval.
|Pizza Is Coming||Flux||Croft Arms|
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The final episode of The Colbert Report will air Thursday on Comedy Central. Stephen Colbert will resurface in 2015 as he replaces the retiring David Letterman at CBS, but The Colbert Report will be no more. As a goodbye gift, Colbert is raffling off his set for charity. First prize is his desk, and second prize is his fireplace and leather chair. Proceeds will go to support The Yellow Ribbon Fund (for injured veterans) and DonorsChoose.org (for classrooms). You can enter for the next few hours at Omaze. -via Stephen Colbert
Whether you have too much furniture or constantly find great pieces at garage sales, it's easy to get a hold of furniture that is a little beat up or ugly but still has a lot of potential. That potential, of course, is what makes the piece perfect for upcycling.
Over at Homes and Hues, we rounded up nine great examples of upcycled furniture to inspire you to take up your own restoration project. Whether you want to turn an armoire into a bird cage or come up with your own idea of what to do with your beat up old coffee table, you won't want to miss this one.
See the full post at Homes and Hues: 9 Cool Examples of Repurposed and Upcycled Furniture
The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.
by Earle E. Spamer, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is at least the third in Earle Spamer’s series of deep explorations of the Grand Canyon.]
There are more than 400 physiographic “Grand Canyons” in the world. How can this be!? After all, the chasm in Arizona is The Grand Canyon. How did the many “other” Grand Canyons come about? Are any of them, in fact, provably grand?
Just as puzzling are hundreds of differing ideas of what can be compared to the Grand Canyon. Few of them have anything to do either with canyons or grandness. What in the world can (a) be like the Grand Canyon, and also, by being so described, can (b) displace the concept of the real thing?
There is a profound misinformational abyss. The real Grand Canyon may not be what (or where) we think it is.
Service With a Simile
In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt, greatest-grinned of U.S. Presidents, visited the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, in Arizona. There he saw grandness for what it’s worth, and he charged a cheering crowd to maintain the Grand Canyon “as it is . . . for your children’s children.” Now those grandchildren have aged -- like the canyon, whittled away by time. And the Grand Canyon still is not protected from the natural forces that wear it away.
Heroic schemes have been proposed (mostly be me) to rescue the Grand Canyon, or at least to do something to slow the erosion that is destroying this magnificent hole -- for example, to aluminum-coat its walls,1 or fill the chasm with styrofoam packaging piffles.2 The piffle-packing procedure was openly considered in 1990s, documented both in this journal (The Annals of Improbable Research) and in Nature Notes, Grand Canyon National Park’s activities and public outreach newsletter, with artistic renderings of the project. Yet, thus far, no suitably grandiose-scale preservation programs have been successfully implemented.
For generations people have believed that there is one -- only one -- Grand Canyon. With bare notice, though, the name was seized by unimaginative etymological pirates. First, it reappeared as the “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River,” in Wyoming. Later, it scattered to locales around the globe, ranging from the “Grand Canyon of Alabama” to the “Grand Canyon of Zambia.”
Now there are more than 400 “Grand Canyons” in the world. Some even claim the status of “grander,” while others are likened to “little” versions of the original, real thing. No effective means exist to distinguish contenders from pretenders. The situation is even more deeply muddy than I have just described.
YouTube user Tom BetGeorge synced an elaborate Christmas light show with his favorite music from the Star Wars franchise. This is his second year of putting on such a production. The music teacher built the props using wood, metal, acrylic and corrugated plastic. He runs the show nightly from 6-10 pm at his house in Newark, New Jersey. -Via Laughing Squid
Sally J. Smith is an environmental artist, which means that she uses the raw materials of nature to create ephemeral sculptures, which she then photographs and leaves in place. Flowers, stones, leaves, and ice are to Smith what paint and clay are to other artists. Although she has a studio at home where she paints many watercolors, the entire natural world is also her studio, as well as her gallery.
Texas high school student Reagan Hardin made a diorama of a farm in the middle ages for her AP World History class. But before she could turn in her homework, her dog Roscoe scarfed it down, plastic sheep and all. Roscoe became ill, and had to be taken to the vet for an emergency procedure to remove the plastic animals, which was done with an endoscope. Roscoe has made a full recovery. In the end, Reagan was able to prove to the teacher that she wasn't using the age-old excuse. -Via Arbroath
You know the songs of Christmas; you’ve sung them every year since you were a kid. But did you know where they came from and how old they are? The Christmas carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was sung for 100 years before it got the tune we are familiar with. “Deck the Halls” was a New Year drinking song that received cleaned-up lyrics. And that legend about “Silent Night”? Not a true story. One origin story that tickled me was who wrote “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” It was an elementary school music teacher.
In 1944, grade school teacher Donald Yetter Gardner and his wife Doris sat down with a group of second-graders in Smithtown, New York, to help them compose a song for Christmas. While there are different versions of the origin, they all involve a bunch of children saying, "All I want for Christmas is…" It's not so much that any students wished for those absent front teeth, but more that Gardner was charmed by their requests hindered by toothless lisping.
There’s more to the story, of course, and quite a few others, in a list of Christmas song origins at mental_floss. With videos.
Derby was born with malformed front legs. He can't walk normally on them. His owners found a solution from the company 3DSystems. The engineers there designed and printed out prosthetic legs for Derby to use.
The legs have rounded feet. This unusual design serves an important purpose. Peg-like prosthetic feet can get stuck into the ground easily. Derby's rounded legs, however, let him keep going over small obstacles.
Derby's owners report that he now runs at least 2-3 miles every day--and faster than they can! He certainly looks happy about his new legs, too.
-via Tech Crunch
This ultramodern desert home is located at Joshua Tree, in the High Desert of Southern California. Built so that it blends almost seamlessly into the landscape, the concrete of its roof and walls is the same color as its natural surrounds. The structure was built by architect Ken Kellogg, who owners Bev and Jay Doolittle enticed to take on the job by sending him photos of their 10-acre lot.
See a video of the home below, and view a collection of photos here.
Via The Presurfer | Images: Lance Gerber
The Humane Society of Silicon Valley posted an ad for a chihuahua who needs a home. They don’t pull any punches about Eddie the Terrible. They lay out three big reasons Eddie might not be the dog you want. Here’s one.
2) Want your kids to grow up with a full complement of fingers and toes? Not the dog for you.
Some dogs love kids. We have a bunch of child-lovin' dogs. Eddie the Terrible, however, is not one of them. Honestly he's a little whiffy with some adults, too. Not in an eat-them sort of way but in 'this makes me very nervous' sort of way. Eddie's never actually bitten anyone but we're not saying it could never happen.
In a home environment Eddie is lovely. He's housebroken, loyal, fun and friendly. He lives to play fetch. But socially? He stinks. We're in Silicon Valley - if we started throwing out the socially awkward no one would ever have another piece of new technology again. We know somewhere out this little guy has a match.
All this honesty might not be such a bad thing. Eddie needs a local home with no children or other pets and a human who has time for him. I would bet that the Humane Society is busy sifting through applications for hm already. Read Eddie’s full story at the Society’s blog. -via HuffPo Green
You probably only know those AT mech units from their appearance in that famous snowy battle on Hoth, but believe it or not those clomping four legged war machines start out looking pretty darn cute. They're just like little metal kitties when they're young, when they're too tiny to take part in any wars, but they all dream of growing up big and strong so they can stride across the battlefield in style. Until then they're just as happy to chase a laser beam around the room all day, and although Darth won't admit it he's mighty amused by their cute metal kitty antics, and he often silences his electronic voice processor so he can laugh out loud without being heard!
Share some intergalactic humor with the world by wearing this Cat-At Loves Lasers, your fellow SW fans won't have to force a laugh- it'll come naturally when they see you wearing this shirt!
|Marty Kart 88||Jurassic Hoth||Super 80s Kart||Moon!|
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If you're a high school or college student, then you may be studying for your final exams right now. Don't sweat them! Once you have the exam in your hands, you'll be ready to regurgitate the information as easily as you did 5 minutes previously. And if that doesn't work, then click on the refresh button in your brain.
-via Tastefully Offensive
New internet darling Munchkin the Teddy Bear is dashing through the snow in a Shih Tzu driven sleigh in this video. Her Halloween costume is being put to good use, as it keeps her warm while she plays in the snow. Every dog should be lucky enough to have a Teddy Bear outfit. -Via Tastefully Offensive
(Photo: Edward Guttierrez/US Navy)
This is the GhostSwimmer, a new drone developed for the US Navy. It's 5 feet long and designed to resemble a shark. It swims like one, too! It flips its tail back and forth, like a shark, to navigate waters between 10 inches and 300 feet deep.
An operator can use a 500-foot tether to control it, or command it to surface periodically to receive new instructions. The Navy hopes to use it for reconnaissance and ship inspection.
Hopefully future models will include features of the EATR, a robot that could, hypothetically, feed off human flesh. Because that would, I suspect, extend its range.
Source: Redditor carris
The dogs shown here are from shelters, accustomed to a lonely existence behind bars with minimal human contact. Then suddenly, a visitor or a family has them sprung from their kennel, and after a brief meeting, the dog is put on a lead and placed in a car. Some of the more timid dogs are scared at first, which may show in their faces. But many are simply ecstatic to be free and with a person who seems to have an interest in taking care of them and showing them kindness. That thrilled, hopeful expression is captured on many of the faces of the dogs in these photos as they ride to their new home.
See more photos of dogs freed from shelters here.
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Source: Redditor electrical_outlet
"Oh, God, it's Mom!"
This is so precious! On the left, representing the right, is Dallas Woodhouse. On the right, representing the left, is Brad Woodhouse. They're brothers and political activists. Like brothers often do, they argue a lot. Specifically, they argue about politics. That's why they recently met on the C-SPAN program Washington Journal.
That show is a call-in program. People around the country can call a number and speak to the debaters on live television. Someone did call in: their mother. She's sick to death of their political bickering. Ms. Woodhouse wants them to knock it off when they visit her at Christmas. She respects that they're both passionate about politics, "But I hope that they just kind of get this out of their system today on your program."
-via 22 Words
(Photo: Cooper Hewitt)
And I don't open up my box of superlatives like that without good reason. The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum owns this rare and bizarre artifact of early Nineteenth Century Dutch origin. It's both a birdcage and a fishbowl.
The fish live in the glass at the top. But the sphere in the center of the bowl doesn't open to the fishbowl. It opens only to the birdcage at the bottom. A bird inside the birdcage can fly up into the sphere. When it does so, it would appear to be flying in the midst of the fish.
-via Messy Nessy Chic
It’s a rare treat when anyone shows up in the neighborhood Christmas caroling anymore. A choir came to our shut-in neighbor’s house last year and the whole street turned out to listen. Now, Improv Everywhere knows that nothing succeeds like excess, so when they went Christmas caroling, they took not only a four-part chorale, but a full choir, an orchestra, and a chorus line of Santas and snowmen!
What if no one was home? What if the family doesn’t celebrate Christmas? There were just too many variables to be able to go up to a random house, especially when you’re going to all the trouble to transport a 39-person cast to New Jersey.
So we came up with a solution: we rented a house and then invited families into the home under the guise of getting a family photo taken. We reached out to our NYC-area email list looking for families in the Bergen County, NJ area who were up for a surprise. In all we surprised five families over the course of the evening. The moms acted as our accomplice– they were the only ones in the family who knew that something was going to happen, but they didn’t know what. They kept the secret from their husband and kids. Once the families arrived for the photo, a producer told them to wait their turn in the living room and to please answer the door if the doorbell rings as we were expecting more families soon.
That explains why no one was upset about the artificial snow tossed all over the yard. When I first watched the video, I imagined myself in the Mom’s spot, thinking “I don’t have enough treats to offer all these people!” Sorry, I’m all out of figgy pudding. Read more about the Christmas mission and see behind-the-scenes pictures at Improv Everywhere. -via Tastefully Offensive
Tim Baker and his team of master prop builders can make anything. They've got the tools, the materials, and the skills necessary to create unique collectibles that will make any fan squeal with delight. That's why their show is called Super-Fan Builds.
We've previously seen their swing that looks like Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. More recently, they made a Lord of the Rings fan very happy. He owns two cats, named Frodo and Sam, who now have access to litter box compartment shaped like a hobbit hole and a scratching post that looks like the Tower of Sauron.
The body of the tower and the hobbit hole are made of foam. The hobbit hole is covered in dried lichen and decorated with wire and epoxy trees. The tower is covered with 650 feet of rope. The Eye of Sauron is catnip covered in fabric.
It's gotta be hard to have a famous face, what with all the adoring fans recognizing you in public and wanting to do a stop-and-chat and whatnot, but imagine how much harder it must be to have a face that kinda looks like a famous face.
You still get stopped, harassed and shaken down for a photo op and an autograph, and then the fans discover you’re not who they thought you were they give you that look of disappointment, which really stings!
These People Must Get Mistaken For Real Celebrities All The Time because they appear to have famous faces at first glance, fictionally famous faces even, but then you notice they're not famous at all.
They're just average Janes or Joes with famous-esque faces, at which point you remember that the person they look like has been dead for nearly one hundred and fifty years:
At least Honest Abe actually lived once upon a time, imagine having the famous face of a fictional supervillain named Loki as seen in a series of blockbuster superhero flicks. Man, that must be really depressing!
Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
Chris Limbrick and Francesco Fragomeni work at Squarespace, a web hosting service. They're working on a project at work . . . but not necessarily for work. In Fools Do Art, the two men recreate scenes from famous works of art. They use only props found around the office as well as the photo editing options available on their phones.
Note: they have a horse head mask at their office. Does Alex provide his hard-working employees at Neatorama with horse head masks? No. Am I peeved about that? Just a bit.