The Battle Of Verdun in LEGO

Jordan Durrenberger brings us a brutally epic LEGO stop-motion animation illustrating the Battle of Verdun. That battle between the French and the Germans lasted for almost ten months in 1916, and was the longest of World War I, leaving the two nations with more than 300,000 soldiers dead and even more injured. The LEGO fight is about 6:40 long, then we get a short lesson about the historical battle. The animation is spectacular in its scope and action, from the opening artillery shelling to the hand-to-hand combat in the trenches. While the fight itself is a horror, the stop-motion recreation is a masterpiece, with as much detailed accuracy as is possible with LEGO minifigs. -via Boing Boing

Death is Not What We See in the Movies

We go to the movies to escape real life. Films make us feel a wide range of emotions, from joy to fear to sentimentality to awe to a satisfying sense of justice. While death and destruction often give us a cathartic thrill on screen, moviegoers don't want to see it the way it happens in real life. Movies give us spectacular, quick, and clean scenes of death, when the reality is much more difficult. For one thing, it is often very hard to murder someone, unless you just shoot them, and that's, sadly, not visually dramatic enough for all films. The good news is that you are not likely to be present at the number of murders or disasters you see on film, or even medical deaths.

But that's how the general public gets a mistaken view on how death works. In real life, death is prolonged and rather gross, two things that filmmakers tend to avoid. Read about five mistaken ideas we've gotten used to by watching movie deaths at Cracked.     

The Famous Dutch Flower Auction Clock

Remember reading about tulip mania? The Netherlands is still a hub for flower sales hundreds of years later, and the biggest flower market is the Royal FloraHolland auction in Aalsmeer. The flower business in Aalsmeer happens at an insanely large scale. The auction itself was known for using a unique clock system, where bidders timed their offers to a clock that counted down the price. So the "clock" actually measured money instead of time. Tom Scott visits the flower auction to explain what happened to the Dutch auction clock, which once drew so many tourists, and is now defunct. The story takes only six minutes; the rest is an ad.

The World's First Solar Powered Car Available to Consumers

An electric car ready to hit the market this fall has something even better than electric power. Lightyear 0 is the world's first solar powered car! Instead of a battery, the car features a solar array across the roof and hood, collecting power from sunlight. This gives it a range of around 70 kilometers (43 miles) per day in optimal conditions. Don't park it in the garage or under a tree! If you live in a sunny area, you could go months without having to charge the vehicle. But if you do need to charge it up, you can just plug it into an outlet at home instead of driving to a charging station.

So what's the catch? The first model, to be sold in Europe, will be quite expensive, at about €250,000. The company hopes to generate enough interest to expand production and eventually bring the price down to around €30,000. That will take a few years. Read more about Lightyear 0 at My Modern Met. -via Damn Interesting

The World’s Oldest Amusement Park

The problem with crowning anything as "the world's oldest" is that first you have to settle on a definition of the thing you're talking about, and there will always be disagreement about those definitions. What, exactly, is the difference between a "park" and an "amusement park"? And when does a space cross over from one to the other?

Dyrehavsbakken, an amusement park north of Copenhagen in Denmark, is called the world's oldest amusement park. The history of the park began when a natural spring was discovered in 1583, more than 400 years ago. People began to congregate around the spring, which offered better quality water than Copenhagen. Crowds meant an opportunity for vendors, and those vendors knew they would sell more if there was entertainment available, so that was arranged. The history of the park was boosted when the king established an animal park, but it was later made private for royalty, and then opened to the public again. Any of these events could interrupt a historical timeline that enshrined Dyrehavsbakken as the world's oldest amusement park. But no one is going to argue about the title, unless they have a better case for another park.

As it is, the history of Dyrehavsbakken is quite interesting, and shows how some businesses just naturally evolve over time instead of springing up from whole cloth. You can read the story of Dyrehavsbakken at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: Flickr user Insights Unspoken)

The 2022 World's Ugliest Dog

After a hiatus of two years due to the pandemic, the World's Ugliest Dog contest has returned to the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California. The fair will close tonight, and the newly-crowned winner of the World's Ugliest Dog contest is a Chinese crested/Chihuahua mix named Mr. Happy Face. He may be ugly, but Mr. Happy Face is very much loved by his human, Janeda Banelly. She adopted the 18-year-old dog last year, even though he has health problems and wasn't expected to live long. He had been at the shelter for quite some time after being rescued from a hoarder situation.  

When I first met him, he was the happiest creature that I had ever met. He hobbled up to me and chose me.  I vowed that day, he would be so loved that he would never remember how awful his previous life had been. Love, kindness and mommy kisses have helped him defy the anticipated short life that we all expected him to have with our family.  

Read the stories behind Mr. Happy Face and several other finalists at the contest page. It's deplorable that these dogs are disfigured or unhealthy because of poor breeding techniques and/or abuse, but at least these few have found loving homes.  -via Boing Boing

See the World's Ugliest Dogs from previous years.

About That Jumbo Sinking Restaurant...

The story went global last week that the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Hong Kong was towed out of the city and then sank. On Thursday, the owners of the boat walked back that story. In a statement to the Hong Kong government, they said that the restaurant was still in the water off the Paracel Islands.

The apparent shift in messaging follows a request from Hong Kong's Marine Department for the restaurant group to provide a written report into the incident as part of an initial investigation.

A spokesman for Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises Limited told CNN on Friday it had always used the term "capsize" to describe the incident and had never claimed the vessel had sunk.

Most dictionaries define "capsize" as "to turn bottom up; overturn." The exact condition of the restaurant is still unclear. The clarification raises more questions than it answers, and now there are calls for further investigation. However, the incident occurred in international waters, as the restaurant was being towed to Cambodia. Read more on this mysterious turn of events at CNN. -via Digg

Bird Tracking Device Goes on Vacation

Scientists from the University of Exeter in the UK were tracking the migratory patterns of oystercatchers when the data seemed to go crazy. One of the birds' tracking devices sent back data to show that it had been to a beach in Orkney, a pizza restaurant, a campground, various tourist attractions, and then to the London suburb of Ealing! While a bird might get a bite to eat at a pizza restaurant, the rest made no sense and the research team assumed that the tracker had fallen off the bird. But then what happened?

Mike German had been on vacation in Orkney, where he found a mysterious device on the beach. He put it in his pocket and forgot about it until he got home, then put it somewhere else and forgot about it. Read how the story comes together and what the university went through to get its tracker back at BBC News. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Mike German)

Who Is Linda Skeens?

(Image credit: Virginia Kentucky District Fair)

The 109th Annual Virginia-Kentucky District Fair was held last week in Wise, Virginia. Of the hundreds of photographs posted at the fair's Facebook page, a couple have captured the imagination of the internet.

(Image credit: Virginia Kentucky District Fair)

That's not all. Linda Skeens made a few more winner's lists for her cooking and canning. Oh yeah, she also won three ribbons for embroidery. And more for Christmas decor.

The comments on all the fair's posts are dominated by people who want to meet this woman and taste her cooking. She's been invited to appear on TV and to come to dinner. Linda Skeens has become a Facebook metaphor for a competitor who does not mess around. But so far, she has remained anonymous. She may not want to feed everyone.

But if Linda Skeens ever emerges into the public, she'll have a ready-made audience for whatever she wants to say, whether it's a lone cooking demonstration or a Food Network series. -via Fark 

15 Neat Facts About Robin Williams

Though he was gone all too soon, Robin Williams had a career packed with amazing stories, including tidbits you'll be glad to learn. From a standup class in a Lutheran church to winning an Academy Award, from voiceovers to TV to comedies to dramas, he gave 100% to whatever project was in front of him. He could be a psycho killer, an alien, a wise man, a wiseguy, a cartoon character (both live action and animated), or even an old lady in the 1993 movie Mrs. Doubtfire.

Williams first met the children of Mrs.Doubtfire dressed in full makeup and costume. The kids were told he was Chris Columbus’s mother, and they didn’t recognize the comedian at all, which was the first test to see how convincing Williams was. 

Well, he convinced me. There was very little in the way of cinema that Williams couldn't pull off better than almost anyone else. Read fourteen other neat facts about Robin Williams that might not know at Cracked.

The Floor is Lava!

Playing the game "the floor is lava" is a real hoot when you're a kid, because you either achieve a sense of accomplishment or a good laugh when you fail. The stakes are higher when you're an adult made of 200 pounds of muscle, and you paid for the furniture. Daniel LaBelle shows off his parkour skills in his house playing the game for the YouTube audience. He can have his sense of accomplishment; we get the laughs when he fails! It's a good thing he keeps his feet clean. -via Digg

The Difference Between Canada and the U.S, in Jewelry

Americans and Canadians are quite alike in most ways, but we recognize a difference in style. Despite sharing a common language, as a group, Canadians are more polite, and Americans are louder. But does that stereotype hold up in ways other than language? Say, in design? Yes, yes it does. Valerie Hammond is a costume jewelry dealer and an expert in antique jewelry. She has written extensively on the pieces designed by Montreal costume jeweler Gustave Sherman.  

During the heyday of G. Sherman & Company, which was the late 1940s through most of the 1970s, “The tastes of the Canadian market were different than the U.S.,” Hammond says. “I don’t mean to say that Canadian women didn't have style because they did, but it was more of an understated elegance, a little more ‘I’m going to wear this to church on Sunday’ than ‘I’m going to wear this to a nightclub.’ Not flashy, more genteel.”

Hammond takes us on a tour of the world of antique jewelry, and contrasts famous designers from Canada and the United States. She also updates us on what the pandemic has done to the antique jewelry business at Collectors Weekly.  

Teenager Visits 35 Countries in Under 24 Hours

If you want to say you've been to a lot of foreign countries in a hurry, it's best to use a loophole. Sixteen-year-old Asher Boiskin of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, was going for a world record for how many nations one could visit in one day, and ended up with 35, with 32 stamped visas. He did it by visiting Embassy Row in Washington, DC. See, embassies are considered part of the country that it represents. Boiskin spent months setting up appointments at 49 different embassies! Traffic problems kept him from getting to them all. Boiskin still didn't achieve a world record, as someone else visited 47 embassies using the same scheme, but not in the US. -via Fark

Chewed Catnip is a Mosquito Repellent

Catnip and another plant called silver vine contain five chemicals that, when combined, make a cat altogether euphoric. These chemicals also repel mosquitos. What's more, when the plant is rubbed, chewed, or crushed, the insect repelling properties are magnified. Cats are more attracted to catnip or silver vine plants that have been crushed or damaged, and they also tend to crush or damage the leaves themselves. Rubbing or rolling in catnip distributes the chemicals around the cat's body, protecting it from mosquito bites, and licking or chewing the leaves causes the chemicals within to disperse more readily. When the five chemicals are produced synthetically, the cats respond in the same way.

This may give us a clue as to why cats like catnip. Of course, they like the high, but did they evolve the ability to get high on 'nip in order to take advantage of the mosquito repelling properties of the plants? Did cats who enjoyed catnip get an evolutionary benefit when they chewed or rubbed against the plants, like maybe fewer mosquito-borne diseases? Another question that cames to mind is, what about all this is beneficial to the plant? Read about the research into catnip and silver vine at Smithsonian.

(Image credit: Julia Wolf)

The Vets Who Care for Rwanda’s Gorillas

The endangered gorillas that Dian Fossey studied and worked to save are still there in the Virunga Mountains of central Africa. They are still under threat from poachers and habitat loss, but some populations have actually grown in the past ten years. One of the reasons is a group of ten dedicated veterinarians of the organization Gorilla Doctors. They head out into the bush with armed guards and trackers to check on the health and welfare of the gorillas. They treat illness to keep it from spreading through the population, and often care for wounds caused by animal traps.

Atlas Obscura interviewed veterinarian Jean Bosco Noheri, known as Dr. Noel, about Gorilla Doctors' work. He told a story about a desperate mission to save a baby gorilla that had a snare around its neck. The gorilla family was guarded fiercely by several silverbacks that didn't trust the humans. That story shows the great lengths these doctors will go to in order to save one gorilla at a time. Read how they accomplished that at Atlas Obscura.

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