Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

New Zealand is Middle Earth

(YouTube link)

Yeah, we've laughed at how New Zealand is going nuts to promote the movie The Hobbit, but there's something special about the locations selected for the film. In this video from Air New Zealand, filmmakers, crew, and actors talk about the wonderful place that became Middle Earth. -Thanks, Cole Stryker!

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Visualizing U.S. Births and Deaths in Real-Time

On average, a baby is born somewhere in the U.S. every ten seconds, and someone dies every 13 seconds. You can watch that happen in real time with the simulation map on Google Drive. These are not actual births and deaths, but enough US Census statistical and geographical data are entered to give you a general idea of how often it happens. Watching the actual simulation at the link is mesmerizing. Nowhere Near Ithaca tells a bit about the project and how the data was compiled. Link -via Metafilter

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Christmas Gifs

Christmas Gifs is a collection of festive animated pictures (gifs) from a wide variety of well-known artists and illustrators. Click on one you like, and you can easily send it to someone. A few are borderline NSFW. The gif shown here is "Rooftop Rollin'" by Ryan Todd. Link -via Laughing Squid

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Common Physics Misconceptions

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Minute Physics quickly lets us in on some slight but important differences in what we thought we knew and what really is. Since I never studied physics, a lot of this was new to me.  -via Daily of the Day

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Stopping the Dead

The National Post has a graphic depiction of the zombie kills from all 27 episodes of 2.5 seasons of the TV show The Walking Dead. It's separated into four parts; the skull here is made of the first section, zombies killed by season (the yellow ones are main characters). You can also see a breakdown of each zombie and who killed it with what weapon, then a breakdown of the weapons by season, and then which characters do the most zombie killing. It's a lot of statistics that should keep a math geek/Walking Dead fan busy for a while. Link -via Digg

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Magnetic Alignment of Fish in a Barrel

Scientists from the Czech Republic and Germany studied how carp arrange themselves in 80 different barrels while waiting to be sold at the traditional Czech Christmas sale last year. They observed fish in 817 samples over seven days. What diid they find?

We found that carps displayed a statistically highly significant spontaneous preference to align their bodies along the North-South axis. In the absence of any other common orientation cues which could explain this directional preference, we attribute the alignment of the fish to the geomagnetic field lines.”

Was the research tough? It was as easy as counting fish in a barrel! Link

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A Ponzi Scheme for Flappers

The Shifters was a name of a group of young people who called themselves that for a few months in 1922. Some considered them a subset of flappers, but men were welcome to be Shifters. Newspapers covered the group as if they knew what the culture meant. No one knows who started the fad, and there was no organization behind it. And, like many fads among young people, the Shifters died out as soon as the media paid attention to them. It was a sort of "secret society" of cool, hep people "in the know," but we still know rather little. One of the fascinating things about the Shifters was their method of recruiting new members.

Central to the Shifters’ rapid growth was a pyramid scheme of enrollment and enrichment that was encapsulated by the Shifter motto, “Get something for nothing.”

A Shifter would tempt a victim into joining, swear her to secrecy, make her pledge to “be a good fellow” and demand an initiation fee of anything from 5 cents to $6. The newly minted Shifter was then dismissed to find fresh victims and make good her investment.

According to The Border Cities Star, “down in New York one stenog. cleaned out 1,200 persons in the Woolworth building offices during her membership campaign, and naturally collected 1,200 dollars.”

As time went by, established businesses wanted in on the game as well, and they manufactured Shifters pins,  patches, and hats to sell. A lot of money changed hands, but when the Shifters were seen as mainstream, they disappeared. On to the next fad! The New York Times Sunday Review has the story, plus lists of "Shifter slang" terms, which may or may not be accurate, but it's fun to read. Link -via Metafilter

(Image credit: the New York Public Library)

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Cat Helps Baby with English-Spanish Lesson

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What does the cat say? The lesson works best when you have authentic input! -via Daily Picks and Flicks

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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Spike Sings Tequila

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Spike the cockatiel has the song down. Of course, "Tequila" by The Champs only has one lyric, but he does the instrumental parts pretty well, too! -via Daily Picks and Flicks

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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Farmer Style

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This isn't a parody video of "Gangnam Style," but a new parody song to the tune of PSY's song.
The Peterson Farm Brothers brought us I’m Farming and I Grow It, and this one is just as clever. Again, they are extolling the importance of agriculture and their pride in living "Farmer Style." -via Viral Viral Videos

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Why Do People Tell Actors to "Break a Leg"?

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website.

The term "break a leg" is unique to actors. Actors often tell each other to "break a leg" and the term is also commonly used by non-actors, who wish the sentiment on actual actors. It means, of course, "Do well!" or "Have a great show!" The term can be used before a stage performance, a show, or an audition. I have never heard it used before filming a movie, but I guess it can be used on that occasion, too.

Interestingly, stagehands do not use the term, just actors. Stagehands will often tell each other "Don't mess up" or the more graphic "Don't f*** up" before a big or important performance.

Like many popular sayings and terms, the origin of "break a leg" is nebulous and disputed. The term "break a leg" was used originally, some say, to discourage evil spirits from deliberately causing one's performance to suffer. According to this theory, wishing someone "good luck" would be invoking the "evil eye." So "good luck" would actually cause bad luck for the actor. This, "break a leg," by this logic, would be a wish for good luck.

The term "break a leg" may be traced back to the Elizabethan language. To "break a leg" in Shakespeare's time meant, literally, to bow -by bending at the knee. Since a successful actor would "break a leg" onstage and receive applause, the phrase would, in effect, be a wish for good luck. However, in the 16th century "break a leg" also meant to give birth to an illegitimate child, which is hard to connect to the theatrical world.

Continue reading

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Star Wars Reviewed by a Newbie

Allison Keene, who writes about TV for Collider and mental_floss,  grew up without ever watching a Star Wars film. She sat down and watched every one of them in release order, and wrote up her impressions as a 21st-century newbie. What's interesting is that she thought she knew a lot about the series, because she knew what people talked about on the internet. But that's completely different from seeing the films. She says after the first one:

A-ha! Moment: I was floored by how many pop culture references come out of this movie alone, are there any in the other movies? “These are not the droids you are looking for,” “a great disturbance in the Force,” “may the Force be with you,” “the Force is strong with this one,” etc.

WTF? Moment: I think I’ve always conceived of Darth Vader as being some all-powerful evil villain, and to see him just hanging around the council, running his own errands and in fact getting in a fighter jet to go out on an attack run himself confused me greatly.  Doesn’t he have minions for that sort of thing?  Also I expected his voice to sound like something in between Christian Bale‘s Batman and Tom Hardy‘s Bane, but he was quite normal, which disappointed me a bit.

And even that's funny, that the voice of James Earl Jones may sound "quite normal" now that everyone has heard him so much. In 1977, it stood out from every other voice on the planet. Keene wrote up all six movies, which are posted at Collider in reverse (blog) order. Link

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(vimeo link)

In a not-too-distant but disturbingly violent future, brain implants record everything you see, and holographic cops can check them to see what you've been doing. This low-budget Swedish short by Eric Ramberg and Jimmy Eriksson has the potential to become a feature film. -Thanks, Jimmy and Eric!

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Whatever Happened to Bubbles?

Michael Jackson's chimpanzee Bubbles is now 29 years old, and lives in a shelter in Florida. Expenses are around $20,000 per ape, so Bubbles is contributing two of his abstract paintings to an exhibit called "Endangered" at Art Basel Miami Beach. You can have one for $1,500. There are quite a few other former show-biz apes at the Center for Great Apes.

In captivity, chimpanzees can live to be 60, orangutans 50. Yet by around six years old, all had reached the ends of their careers, growing too big and too strong-willed to manage.

Bubbles’s story is typical in this respect. Born in a laboratory in Texas in 1983 and raised by humans, he was sent to join the other chimps in his trainer’s compound when he became too much for the pop star.

“He’s had a really tough time,” says Casey Taylor, who turned her back on a law career to become the sanctuary’s communications and development coordinator.

“He didn’t know how to be a chimp. There’s a serious social structure with these animals -- you have to know the chimp rules. He mentally shut down.”

But now Bubbles is the dominant chimp in his group, although he sometimes reverts to acting like a spoiled child. Read more about Bubbles and the other apes at Bloomberg. Link -via Flavorwire

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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Electronic Tree in Brussels

After many years of installing a natural Christmas tree in the main public square of Brussels, Belgium, the tree this year is artificial, abstract, and electronic.  

An enormous abstract Christmas tree has been unveiled at the center of Brussels, though some are displeased with the city's modern take on holiday tradition. Created by French collective 1024 Architecture, the "Abies Electronicus" is an 82-foot steel-ribbed installation that replaces the real pine tree typically on display at the city's central square. Every night, the structure comes to life with a light and sound show, replete with shimmering lights, glowing cubes, and a mix of both holiday and industrial music. And unlike traditional trees, visitors can actually climb to the top of the Abies Electronicus for a panoramic view of the city.

Some citizens are not pleased with the structure, preferring a traditional tree. You can see a video of the tree changing colors. Link -via Buzzfeed

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R.I.P. Dave Brubeck

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Jazz musician and composer Dave Brubeck died this morning due to heart failure. If you don't know the musician, you know his works, such as the classic "Take Five." Shown here is the song performed in Berlin in 1966, with Brubeck on the piano.

Throughout his career, Brubeck defied conventions long imposed on jazz musicians. The tricky meters he played in “Take Five” and other works transcended standard conceptions of swing rhythm.

The extended choral/symphonic works he penned and performed around the world took him well outside the accepted boundaries of jazz. And the concerts he brought to colleges across the country in the 1950s shattered the then-long-held notion that jazz had no place in academia.

Read more about the jazz pioneer in his obituary at the Chicago tribune. Brubeck would have turned 92 years old tomorrow. Link -via Metafilter

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Pizza Hut Perfume

Yes, it's a real thing. Pizza Hut Canada made 100 bottles of perfume featuring the scent pizza.

Here's the full story: Grip Limited, an advertising firm that works with Pizza Hut Canada, originally originally floated the tongue-in-cheek notion on the Pizza Hut Canada Facebook page back in August as part of a broader push to promote more engaging social media activity. The post asked fans to dream up names for an imaginary scent inspired by "the smell of a box of Pizza Hut pizza being opened." But the fan response to the idea was so enthusiastic that Grip and Pizza Hut decided to make the perfume a reality.

A month and a half later, to commemorate the fact that Pizza Hut Canada had gotten 100,000 fans, the chain's community managers announced that the first 100 people to message them would actually get a bottle of Pizza Hut perfume. And sure enough, the bottles were shipped to those 100 lucky fans at the beginning of December.

There are no plans to make more -yet. Of course, if the demand is there, they still have the formula. Link -via Fark

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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Fellowship of the Ringwraiths

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The Ringwraiths were terrifying, but they didn't have a lot of screen time in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here you see what they were doing offscreen during the rest of the story. -via Geeks Are Sexy

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Hypothermia-Inducing Films

The temperature where I am is about 65 degrees, which is odd for December. It's hard to get into the Christmas spirit amidst global warming, but there's always movies to put you in the mood. However, if you're looking for something without the sugary sweetness of Christmas family films, you might try movies that "revolve around cold, and snow, and hypothermia and madness." Five of them are detailed at Unreality. Pictured here is the “snow-nazi-zombie” movie Dead Snow. Link

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Assessing Gluteal Hardness in Uniformed Security Guards

The following is an article from the Annals of Improbable Research.

by Peter Freundlich The Peter Freundlich Institute New York City, New York
Photographs by S. Drew, AIR staff

The author of this study has often been an object of intense study by Uniformed Private Security Guards. In response, he has spent much time in turn studying them and their behavior. Here is the fruit of that study. Read it, and you will have a clear understanding of the concept of Gluteal Hardness.

Private Parts of Behavior
If in the course of doing whatever it is you are doing, you are approached not by a police officer but by a UPSG, then you are not, as you may have thought you were, on public but on private property, and this is a critical difference, because on public property you are up against the law, which is hard and fast and applies equally to everyone. Whereas on private property you’re up against not the law but “rules.” Many spaces that may seem public (and are sometimes for that reason in fact called “quasi-public”) -- plazas, atriums, outdoor cafes, areas adjacent to the sidewalk, walkways leading to lobbies -- are in fact controlled by institutions, corporations, landlords, universities, and so forth. The police enforce the law, as we’ve said, but they have no interest in corporate and institutional “rules.” This is where private security forces -- and the tap on the shoulder -- come in.

Let’s stipulate, as the lawyers say, that there is no point arguing against “the rules.” For one thing, you don’t know what they are. They have been propounded by shareholders, board members, alumni, executive vice presidential conference committees, and cabals of maintenance and security men, and are published -- if published at all -- in employee policy handbooks unavailable to you (and unread by those to whom they are available). In sum, the rules are what “they” say they are -- and there you are. But -- and this is the nub of the current study -- not all uniformed security guards are equally inclined to make an issue of these so-called rules. Far from it. This being the case, what you need to be able to do is to quickly assess the degree to which an individual UPSG will be inclined to get in your face.

Luckily, this is not as daunting as it seems. In fact, it’s rather simple. I herewith offer you the fruits of my long experience in the area of gauging GH (Gluteal Hardness) in security guards. Just follow these few straightforward guidelines, and you will quickly be able to tell whether or not a particular UPSG is inclined to make trouble, or to “let it slide, this one time, if you don’t do it again.”

Continue reading

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The Power of Youth

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A talented countertenor busker in Krakow, Poland, has a child, or more likely a grandchild, who wants to follow in his footsteps. The baby sure knows the song well! -via Arbroath

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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14 Terrible Christmas Presents For 14 Terrible People

Sometimes you buy Christmas presents out of obligation, like the annual name-drawing at your workplace, or some such event. What to get when you don't care to send the very best? Jill Harness came up with some fine suggestions, as long as you keep your tongue in your cheek. These gifts are all readily available, and will surely point out the recipient's faults in a public way. However, some of them might actually be useful to someone you love, but only if they request the product. Shown here is a set of garters for wannabe gangsters who want to strut around with low-slung pants, but can't keep their jeans in place. The rest are just as funny! Link

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Edward Scissorhands Exterior Locations

Adam the Woo went to Florida to see how the places where the 1990 film Edward Scissorhands was shot have changed in twenty years. For one thing, a lot of trees have grown! The many photos are posted in an album at imgur. Link -via Metafilter

The story of how these pictures were done is at YouTube. Link

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The Making of "It's a SpongeBob Christmas"

What TV show required 60 pounds of baking soda, 20 boxes of fruit flavored, gluten-free breakfast cereal, 21 pounds of googly eyes, and 42 pounds of glitter? The new Spongebob Christmas special! Nickelodeon will present "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!" on December 9th. The special was filmed in stop-motion, a first for Spongebob. Boing Boing has some background and trivia about the making of the special, like what all that stuff was used for. Link

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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Balloon Rocket

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This looks like fun! It's also a way to demonstrate to kids how a rocket works. From the Toys from Trash series by Dr. Arvind Gupta. Link -via Laughing Squid

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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The World’s Toughest Survivors

We complain about traffic jams and videos that take too long to load, but when one's life is on the line, people can be pretty tough. At least some people. Adventure Journal has a list of amazing survival stories, beginning with the Antarctic adventures of Ernest Shackleton and his crew.

When the going got tough: In 1914, Shackleton’s crew intended to attempt the first Trans-Antarctic Expedition, a crossing of Antarctica over the south pole. Then their ship, the Endurance, was trapped in pack ice in the Weddell Sea, stranding 28 men.

The tough: Hung out for nine months, but then the ice crushed their ship, so they took lifeboats and camped on the ice for six months eating seal meat and eventually the expedition dogs, until an ice floe suddenly split and they were forced to take the lifeboats to nearby Elephant Island, in freezing water and -20 F temps. From there, Shackleton and five men took four weeks’ worth of supplies and launched a 22.5-foot lifeboat for an 800-mile trip to South Georgia Island, where they hoped to get help at a whaling village. After 16 days of navigating based on dead reckoning, the men landed on South Georgia, but on the wrong (unpopulated) side. Shackleton and two other men crossed the then-unmapped, unexplored island in 36 hours. After several attempts over the course of three months, Shackleton eventually returned to Elephant Island to rescue the rest of his crew. All crew members survived. The first Antarctic crossing would not happen for another 40 years.

The other ten stories in this list all happened within the past 50 years. You may remember some of them, but you probably don't know all of them. Link -via the Presurfer

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The Sworn Virgins of Albania

Albania's laws and culture are so restrictive for women that "Sworn Virgins" find it easier to just live as men. They live celibate lives, but in return they have the freedom to do as they please. Many of them were assigned this role as children, and were raised as boys.  

As an alternative, becoming a  Sworn Virgin, or 'burnesha" elevated a woman to the status of a man and granted her all the rights and privileges of the male population. In order to manifest the transition such a woman cut her hair, donned male clothing and sometimes even changed her name.  Male gestures and swaggers were practiced until they became second nature. Most importantly of all, she took a vow of celibacy to remain chaste for life. She became a "he". This practice continues today but as modernization inches toward the small villages nestled in the Alps , this archaic tradition is increasingly seen as obsolete. Only a few aging Sworn Virgins remain. The number of new cases are scant and tend to be considered less authentic by younger generations.

Photographer Jill Peters photographed some of the Sworn Virgins and is collaborating on a documentary about them. See more pictures at her site. Link -via Flavorwire

(Image credit: Jill Peters)

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What Is It? game 254

Once again, it's time for our collaboration with the always amusing What Is It? Blog! Do you know what the object in this picture is? You can win even if you don't know!

Place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, please, though you can enter as many as you'd like. Post no URLs or weblinks, as doing so will forfeit your entry. Two winners: the first correct guess and the funniest (albeit ultimately wrong) guess will each win a T-shirt from the NeatoShop.

Please write your T-shirt selection alongside your guess. If you don't include a selection, you forfeit the prize, okay? May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts?

Check out the What Is It? Blog for more pictures of this item. Good luck!

Update: the unknown item turned out to be the housing for a four-face Verdin street clock. Anker was the first with the correct answer, which is good for a T-shirt from the NeatoShop! We also have a t-shirt for amanderpanderer, who said, "It is a connecting piece from the construction of Hamtopia, the pleasure palace for our Hamster overlords who will be arriving on December 21st. All Hail Squeeky, Lord of all Hamsters." That wins the award for the funniest answer of the week! You'll find the answers to all this week's mystery items at the What Is It? blog.

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Game Over

Henry Hargreaves is the artist who brought us Deep Fried Gadgets. His latest series of works is called Game Over.

Taking games from my childhood I wanted to strip away the color making the games themselves useless but draw the viewers attention to how beautiful and sculptural the forms themselves become as stand alone objects.

See more at his website. Link

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Knit Your Own Dog

The Best in Show website invites you to knit your own dog, or "stitch your bitch." There are patterns available for many different breeds (only hounds are shown here), a gallery of submissions, and an ongoing competition for knitted dogs. They are adorable! Link -via Nag on the Lake

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Profile for Miss Cellania

  • Member Since 2012/08/04


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