Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

The Best Maru Moments of 2010

The author of Catsparella sifted through a year of Maru's blog and excerpted some of the best photographs and videos of 2010. Each entry has a link to the original blog post. I particularly liked Maru's response to YouTube in gratitude for another trophy. But of course, nothing beats Maru's love of boxes! Link -via Buzzfeed

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Man in a Blizzard

(YouTube link)

Man in a Blizzard, also possibly at one time called Idiot with a Tripod, is Jamie Stuart's observations during the blizzard that hit New York City. It was filmed on Saturday, edited in almost no time, uploaded to YouTube Sunday, and earned a great review from Roger Ebert.

This film deserves to win the Academy Award for best live-action short subject.
(1) Because of its wonderful quality. (2) Because of its role as homage. It is directly inspired by Dziga Vertov's 1929 silent classic "Man With a Movie Camera." (3) Because it represents an almost unbelievable technical proficiency.

-via The Daily What

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Sealed with a Kiss -and Neuroscience

One of our New Year traditions is to kiss someone at midnight. No pressure there, right? A kiss is a great way to start out a new year on a high note, and there is a biological basis for the urge. A kiss works toward three things: sex, romantic love, and bonding.
Humans have evolved to use a number of signals - including taste, smell and possibly silent chemical messengers called pheromones - to help us figure out whether someone is a suitable partner and a good person to reproduce with. A kiss means getting close to someone - close enough to suss out important clues about chemistry and genetics. At this range, our noses can detect valuable information about another person's health and perhaps even his or her DNA. Biologist Claus Wedekind has found, for instance, that women are most attracted to the scents of men with a different set of genetic coding for immunity than their own. This is probably because when there is greater genetic diversity between parents in this area, their children will have more versatile immune systems.

Sheril Kirshenbaum, who wrote the book The Science of Kissing, tells us how great kisses kick start our chemicals and hormones, and how a kiss' effects on our brains and bodies promote relationships. Link -via The Intersection

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The Secret Life of the Banjo

If you're like most Americans, you probably picture one of two things when you hear the banjo -Kermit the Frog strumming away in the swamp or the inbred boy from Deliverance. How can one instrument conjure up images both so sweet and so repugnant? The answer lies in the history of the banjo, which stretches from Africa to Hollywood, with an extended stop in Appalachia.

Centuries ago, somewhere in West Africa, the banjo was born on the knee of griots -storytellers who improvised their lyrics as they performed. Almost like forerunners to today's hip-hop artists, griots interacted with their audiences using call-and-response patterns to liven up the crowd. Their instruments -strings and animal skins tacked across hollowed-out gourds- are considered the first banjos.

The earliest versions were easy to make and easily portable, so when Africans were forced aboard slave ships, they brought their banjos with them. Once in America, slaves had no trouble recreating the instruments wherever they went. The banjo spread across Appalachia, but it was quickly pigeonholed as a black instrument.


Big changes were in store for the banjo, though. In the mid-19th century, the newest and most popular form of entertainment was the minstrel show. White men and women toured the nation dressed in blackface while singing and dancing in a manner that mocked black people. And because they were lampooning all aspects of African-American culture -particularly African dance and music- the banjo was at center stage.

Minstrel shows also meant change for the instrument itself. The early "minstrel banjo" was a fretless, four-string instrument with strings crafted from animal intestines. But metal strings soon replaced those, and then a minstrel named Joel Walker Sweeney (aka the Banjo King) popularized the fifth string, which became the defining characteristic of the modern instrument.

During the next 50 years or so, a strange thing happened to the banjo. Although minstrel shows poked fun at black people, they made the banjo immensely popular among white people in the process. In turn, African-Americans increasingly wanted to distance themselves from an instrument that had come to represent oppression and bigotry. In the early 1900s, the banjo only played a small part in new forms of African-American music, such as blues, gospel, and jazz. Meanwhile, it was becoming all the rage in white communities, especially in Appalachia.


The 1930s saw the rise of the banjo in Appalachian country music, thanks to the Grand Ole Opry. A Saturday night variety show performed in Nashville and broadcast live on the radio, the Opry spread "hillbilly" culture over the airwaves. The banjo played a central role in this, accompanying the antics of comedians such as David "Stringbean" Akeman and Louis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones, both of whom became even more famous later on the TV hit Hee-Haw.

The banjo might have remained an instrument of redneck comedy forever if it hadn't been for one man -Earl Scruggs. Born in 1924 in rural North Carolina, Scruggs grew up listening to the Opry and became convinced that the instrument could do more than accompany stage acts. By inventing the jangly, three-finger technique of banjo-picking -the trademark of today's bluegrass music- Scruggs used his fast-paced twangy style to prove beyond a doubt that banjo pickers could be virtuoso musicians. Of course, the trend has lived on. Modern-day banjo masters like Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, and Bill Keith all play with as much technical precision as concert violinists.

Ironically, Scruggs also recorded the soundtracks for Bonnie and Clyde (ever wonder why high-speed getaway music is always played on the banjo?) and TV's The Beverly Hillbillies. Both projects probably maligned the banjo's image as much as Scruggs earlier work had innovated it, though not everyone in the music industry agrees. In fact, Julliard-trained banjo legend Eric Weissberg thinks the soundtracks brought bluegrass into the lives of many people who would have otherwise never heard it.

Until the 1960s, bluegrass wasn't really played outside of Appalachia. And because it was considered regional music, record companies didn't distribute it nationally. But in 1963, Weissberg recorded an album with his friend Marshall Brickman called New Dimensions in Banjo & Bluegrass. The record didn't generate much attention at first, but five years later, the hills came alive with the sound of banjos when director John Borman wanted the song "Dueling Banjos" for his new movie Deliverance. Weissberg happily recorded a new version with musician Steve Mandell, and it turns out the song shouldn't have been called "Dueling Banjos" at all. It's actually a duet between a banjo and a guitar, but listeners didn't seem to care. The new cut was played as the background music in the movie's radio ad, and all of the sudden, all over the country, disc jockeys were answering phone calls from people who wanted to know where they cold get their hands on the song. In lieu of a soundtrack album, Warner Brothers added two Deliverance songs to the material from New Dimensions and released it in 1973 as Dueling Banjos. Weissberg, Brickman, and Mandell became rich overnight, and Deliverance's depiction of rural Appalachian life -with that foreboding, nine-note banjo melody -was burned forever into the American psyche.


By the time Marshall Brickman received his $160,000 royalty check for Dueling Banjos, he'd already left the musician life to write scripts for The Tonight Show and Candid Camera. He began working alongside up-and-coming filmmaker Woody Allen, and together they wrote he Academy Award winning screenplay for Annie Hall in 1977. In Hollywood, Brickman became the missing link in the "Dueling Banjos"-to-Kermit-the-Frog axis of American pop culture. With his buddy Jim Henson, he wrote the script to a TV special that was later fine-tuned into The Muppet Show. In Brickman's opinion, Kermit just wouldn't have been Kermit without the banjo. "I try to picture it quickly -Kermit with another instrument- and I can't," Brickman says. "Not only figuratively, but literally, that banjo is nailed to his hand."


The above article was written by Robbie Whelan. It is reprinted with permission from the Scatterbrained section of the November-December 2007 issue of mental_floss magazine.

Be sure to visit mental_floss' entertaining website and blog for more fun stuff!

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Graphic Violence

(YouTube link)

Two guys with a conflict turn into street art and behave like video game characters. This really neat animation was produced by CorridorDigital. -via Laughing Squid

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20 License Plates To Die For

Funeral homes strive to do their job with sympathy and dignity. However, a lot of older hearses are sold to the public and quite a few private owners like to show off their ride, which can mean getting an "appropriate" vanity plate. Shiny Plates has a collection of these morbid but imaginative hearse license plates. Link -via Bits and Pieces (Image credit: Flickr user Molly Holzschlag)

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Woman Tests Husband with Fake Kidnapping

Spanish police have arrested an unnamed woman who faked her own kidnapping. She sent a photograph of herself with her hands and feet tied, along with a ransom demand of 20,000 euros.
The ransom request was repeated in later text messages as well as warnings that the man not go to police, which he ignored.

Police launched a search and spotted her car, which they followed to a shopping mall in the town of Gandia on the Mediterranean coast.

"The woman, who was travelling alone and was in perfect health, was the supposed victim of the kidnapping," the police statement said.

At first she told police that she had been released that morning but later confessed to faking her abduction "to find out what her husband would be willing to do for her".

There's no word on whether the perpetrator found her husband's response acceptable. Link -via Arbroath

(Image created with Ransom Note Generator)

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Music Hotel Really Sticks Out!

Nhow Berlin (in Berlin, of course) calls itself "Europe's first music hotel." It has a state-of-the-art recording studio and amenities that cater to musicians. But the real attraction is the weird architecture! The inside is artfully designed as well. See more pictures at Jetsetta. Link

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Do Pterosaurs Still Exist on Papua New Guinea?

In Papua New Guinea, natives describe huge flying animals with long beaks, bat-like wings, and razor-sharp teeth and claws. Evidence of gigantic nesting sites have been found in the mountains. Remember, this is the area where previously-unknown species of animals are found almost constantly. Could these creatures be living pterosaurs?
The Ropen or ‘demon flyer' is a monstrous animal that is said to have terrified the natives of Papua New Guinea for thousands of years. Another smaller animal, known as the Duah, is possibly related to the Ropen, a cryptid creature said to haunts some of the far-flung outlying islands.

The flying animals described are said to "glow" in the dark, as reported both by locals and researchers. It has been hypothesized that the bio-luminescent glow assists the animals' effort to hunt and catch food in the deep darkness of the tropical night. One of the researchers, David Woetzel, has said that he recorded images of the animals while studying them.


(Image credit: Wikipedia user DinoGuy2)

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United State of Pop 2010 (Don't Stop the Pop)

(YouTube link)

DJ Earworm has released his annual mashup of the top 25 songs of the year. The songs used in this video are listed at the YouTube page. -via The Daily What

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Mad Monks & Bullet-Proof Corsets

The story of the Romanov family seems tailor-made for Hollywood (and Hollywood has embraced it, many times) with fabulous wealth and power, war and revolution, personal heartaches, conflicts, romance, deception, and action -including chase scenes. Parts of their history would be considered too unbelievable if it were presented as fiction. For example, the Russian royal family's advisor Rasputin was a strange character in life and even more so in death.
Ra ra Rasputin/Lover of the Russian queen/They put some poison into his wine/Ra ra Rasputin/Russia's greatest love machine/He drank it all and said "I feel fine"

Ra ra Rasputin/Lover of the Russian Queen/They didn't quit, they wanted his head/Ra ra Rasputin/Russia's greatest love machine/And so they shot him till he was dead

But there must be more to the song, because Rasputin wasn't quite dead even after he was shot! Read what really happened to Rasputin, and to the Romanovs at Atlas Obscura. Link

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In Case of Nothing to Do...

I had to laugh at this, as my kids are desperate for something to do that doesn't involve housework. From the mind of Jon Kudelka. Link -via reddit

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Solar-Powered Hornet

The exoskeleton of the oriental hornet is a solar collector and generator that converts sunlight into electricity! A team led by Marian Plotkin of Tel-Aviv University discovered the wasp's power plant properties, but don't know why the insects produce electricity.
Their research revealed that pigments in the hornet's yellow tissues trap light, while its brown tissues generate electricity. Exactly how the hornets use this electricity is still not entirely understood, Plotkin noted.

"When I was running my experiment, people told me it was never going to work," she said. "I'm so happy at the results."

While solar cells using human-made substances are usually 10 to 11 percent efficient at generating electricity, the hornet's cells are only 0.335 percent efficient. For instance, the hornet still gets the vast majority of its energy from food.

Link -Thanks, Marilyn Terrell!

(Image credit: Blickwinkel, Alamy)

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The Beauty of Pixar

(YouTube link)

Leandro Copperfield put together 500 scenes from eleven Pixar films to make this super mashup. If you've seen the movies, you'll love this! -via The Daily What

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One Man Village People

(YouTube link)

Halftime at the UConn-Florida State basketball game in Hartford last week. The performer goes by the name Christopher or Christopher from Las Vegas. -via The Daily What

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Neanderthals Cooked Their Vegetables

Research by the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian natural history museum shows us that Neanderthals were not all that different from modern humans in their eating habits. They ate grains and vegetables as well as meat, and they cooked their dinners, too!
Researchers found grains from numerous plants, including a type of wild grass, as well as traces of roots and tubers, trapped in plaque buildup on fossilized Neanderthal teeth unearthed in northern Europe and Iraq.

Many of the particles "had undergone physical changes that matched experimentally-cooked starch grains, suggesting that Neanderthals controlled fire much like early modern humans," PNAS said in a statement.

Stone artifacts have not provided evidence that Neanderthals used tools to grind plants, suggesting they did not practice agriculture, but the new research indicates they cooked and prepared plants for eating, it said.

Link -via J-Walk Blog

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Charging Bull with Sweater

Street artist Agata Olek covered the Charging Bull sculpture in Manhattan with a pink and purple crocheted skin! But why?
"I wanted to make it for all those people who couldn't make it to their families and for those people who don't have coats and don't have any money."

Olek is originally from Poland, but when she couldn't make it home to see her family, she thought of all the others who might be spending this holiday far from their loved ones.

The crocheted Charging Bull is her Christmas gift to NYC, she says, and a tribute to the sculptor of the bull, Arturo Di Modica, who placed the bull on Wall Street just before Christmas of 1989.

The sweater only lasted a couple of hours- long enough to get its picture taken before Bowling Green park employees removed it. Link -via Laughing Squid

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Bad Science in Movies

This chart posted at io9 exposes the many liberties filmmakers take with science in movies about space. The only two films to receive a clean bill are true stories from history. Link -via The High Definite

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Where Did We Bury that Time Capsule?

The officials of Kimberly, Wisconsin buried a time capsule 25 years ago with plans to dig it up to commemorate the town's 100th anniversary in 2010. The time has come, but no one knows where that time capsule is!
The time capsule held coins, news clippings and a bottle of New Coke in a 2-foot-long piece of white PVC pipe. It was buried near the municipal building in 1985.

However, the time capsule had to be dug up in 1997 when the building complex was remodeled.

Kimberly street commissioner Dave Vander Velden says it's not clear where — or even if — it was reburied.

They're now using a metal detector to look for it. Link -via the Presurfer

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Tron - Buzz Enters the Grid

This movie mashup fan art just seems right: Buzz Lightyear ready to enter the Grid in the world of Tron, by DeviantART member iamclu. Link -via Breakfast Links

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Ancient Human Remains Found in Israel

Israeli archaeologists have found teeth of modern humans in a cave in central Israel that date back 400,000 years. That makes them twice as old as modern humans found in Africa, which is where they've been thought to have originated.
"It's very exciting to come to this conclusion," said archaeologist Avi Gopher, whose team examined the teeth with X-rays and CT scans and dated them according to the layers of earth where they were found.

He stressed that further research is needed to solidify the claim. If it does, he says, "this changes the whole picture of evolution."

The accepted scientific theory is that Homo sapiens originated in Africa and migrated out of the continent. Gopher said if the remains are definitively linked to modern human's ancestors, it could mean that modern man in fact originated in what is now Israel.

Sir Paul Mellars, a prehistory expert at Cambridge University, said the study is reputable, and the find is "important" because remains from that critical time period are scarce, but it is premature to say the remains are human.

The archaeologists from Tel Aviv University are confident that other human fossil evidence will be found at the site. Link -Thanks, özi!

(Image credit: AP/Oded Balilty)

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Spin Around

(YouTube link)

A swinging sword looks very different from the sword's point of view! These guys duct taped a camera to the end of the sword before they put it through its paces. The effect may cause dizziness. -via The Daily What

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December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse

(vimeo link)

Michael Black set up a camera to photograph his back yard in New Jersey every five minutes for twenty hours during yesterday's blizzard. He assembled those photos into this 38-second time lapse video. Note how the clock had to be lifted and lifted higher -until he finally gave up and just dug it out of the snow between pictures. -via Laughing Squid

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Top Quizzes of 2010

This week mental_floss is counting down their top quizzes of 2010. If you enjoy the Lunchtime Quiz every day, you'll love this! Already you can relive the #24 quiz called Are They Canadian? and #23 The Goonies. Check back for more as we count down to 2011! Link

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What Is It? game 158

It's time for our giveaway collaboration with the always amusing What Is It? Blog! Can you guess what this object is? Or maybe you know and don't have to guess!

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 win 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?

For more clues, check out the What Is It? Blog. Have fun!

Update: Just a guess had the right answer pretty quickly: this object is a fire starter. Soak it in kerosene, then place the business end under the logs and light. The funniest answer came from pismonque, who said, "It's a 2-in-1 Ant Annihilator Toy. The ring at one end originally held a magnifier for frying individual ants, while the other end was used to steamroll dozens at a time. Kids loved 'em!" Both win t-shirts from the NeatoShop!

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Snow in the Subway

New York City got such a snowfall that it even accumulated underground -in the subway stations! Link -via Fark

(Image credits: @dwag29 and @caro)

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Cat Disturbed on Trampoline

(YouTube link)

Lesson learned: a child's trampoline is not the most peaceful place to take a catnap. -via Buzzfeed

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Grandfather Drove Around Lost for Days

Seventy-two-year-old Mohammed Bellazrak dropped his wife off at the airport on December 23rd with no problem, but became disoriented in the snow as he was driving home to Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England from Gatwick airport. He should have made it home in a couple of hours. When he didn't, his relatives contacted police. Sergeant Jo Spencer tells about the investigation.
"We contacted other forces with no success and then asked for the ANPR systems to be activated to see if anyone spotted the number plate CF53 BHE, the car in which Mr Bellazrak was known to have been when he left Gatwick for the 70 mile journey home.

"We were surprised to discover that ANPR cameras had recorded him in Bracknell, Wokingham, Burnham and High Wycombe - all presumably attempts at finding his way from Gatwick to Wiltshire.

"The last ANPR 'hit' we had showed him at about 6pm on Christmas eve in Hiugh Wycombe but then the trail went cold again," she added.

On Christmas day, a CCTV camera recorded his license plate number in Oxford, where police were able to flag him down. He was reunited with his family. It is not yet known whether Bellazrak drove around the clock or stopped at night. Link -via Arbroath

(Image credit: Flickr user Jeff Van Campen)

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The 10 Best Fictional Hangovers

The "best" hangovers are, of course, fictional, since there are really no good hangovers. But witnessing the misery in this list may make you more cautious about overdoing the New Year partying and give you a laugh besides. Here's how Tom Wolfe described a hangover in Bonfire of the Vanities:
“The telephone blasted Peter Fallow awake inside an egg with the shell peeled away and only the membranous sac holding it intact. Ah! The membranous sac was his head, and the right side of his head was on the pillow, and the yolk was as heavy as mercury, and it rolled like mercury, and it was pressing down on his right temple… If he tried to get up to answer the telephone, the yolk, the mercury, the poisoned mass, would shift and roll and rupture the sac, and his brains would fall out.” The fictional British journalist is reputed to be based on Christopher Hitchens

The slide show from The Guardian has more hangovers described poetically and painfully. Link -via Nag on the Lake

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Woman in Coffin Found to be Alive

Doctors in Ipatinga, Brazil declared 88-year-old Maria das Dores dead when they found no vital signs. She was transferred from the hospital to a funeral home, where an official looked into her coffin and found her moving! Ms. Dores was immediately sent back to the hospital.
Custodia Amancio, daughter of the resuscitated Brazilian woman, said: "We are happy to know my mother is alive and unhappy with the lack of respect due her. We are still not sure if we will sue the municipality and hospital.

"She continues in the intensive ward treatment ward and we are praying that she will improve quickly."

Ms. Dores suffers from blocked arteries and Alzheimer's disease. Link -via Fark

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