The Remains of the Jeans

No, these aren't the latest jeans from a luxury fashion house selling for thousands of dollars, but considering some we've posted before, you would be forgiven for thinking so. About six years ago, the fashion reseller behind Darn Vintage came across a unique pair of jeans at an estate sale. Click to the right to see them from all angles. From the Instagram thread we learn that they had been left outside for twenty years and all the organic material (cotton) had degraded and left nothing but the metal zipper and the synthetic fibers. It's amazing what people will save and sell. A textile artist believes these are the Lycra or spandex fibers left behind in stretch jeans.

It's somewhat ironic that 100% natural fiber jeans last longer/wear harder than synthetics but also break down completely whereas synthetics lose their elasticity quickly but last 100+ years in a landfill.

@darnvintage tells us that the Wrangler company bought these and is keeping them in their historical archives. -via Nag on the Lake

Mongolia Wins the Olympic Uniform Competition

Less than a week to go until the opening ceremonies for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, and fashion is at the forefront. The stunning uniforms that the team from Mongolia will be wearing at the opening ceremonies have gone viral for their opulent elegance. Designed by Michel & Amazonka, it took 20 hours of work to craft each uniform, but the result caught the eye of the world already. Get a closer look at the details.

Take a look at what a few other countries will be wearing at the opening ceremonies. The USA is going with Ralph Lauren, as usual, with red, white and blue blazers over blue jeans. Britain's uniforms look like a 1950s sock hop. And the French uniforms are very French, although I don't understand why the women are wearing blazers with no sleeves. Vogue give us their picks for the best Olympic uniforms from a fashion designer's perspective, not limited to the kits for the opening ceremonies.

The Potato's Advantage Over Wheat That Changed World History

Every place developed a staple crop that serves to keep a population from starvation: Europe grew wheat, Asia has rice, North America has corn, Africa has yams, and South America is where we got potatoes. Successful societies learn to allocate those crops to bolster their population. The potato allowed the Inca Empire to build its armies and those massive cities. When potatoes were first exported to Europe, it made all the difference in several nations for feeding people (potatoes are more nutritious than wheat) and for a nation's defense. Defense? It all came down to the fact that potatoes are grown underground, and they can stay there until they are needed, while wheat must be harvested and stored for future use. This fact threw a wrench into the military strategies of invading nations. Read how the strategy of growing potatoes changed the history of the world at JStor. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Maja Dumat)

Famous People Hold Long Grudges Over Petty Spats

Some feuds start with a petty slight that turns into a war of resentment, betrayal, backstabbing, and animosity that can last for years. Here we learn about ten personal spats that had long-term consequences. Some were instigated by things that might not be petty at all, like when a guy you love marries your rival or a war destroys your business, but that fact that it got our into the public means it got out of control. And when a friendship ends over sincerely-held but disparate beliefs, that's not really petty. Some of these you've heard of, like the Dassler brothers who split their family shoe company because they couldn't get along, and the two paleontologists who turned their rivalry into intense hatred.

This video has a 90-second skippable ad at 4:54. At that point, I had to abandon the closed captions, because they were way ahead of the video. Your mileage may vary.

The Bananas That We Used to Have

People sometimes wonder out loud why artificial banana flavoring doesn't taste like the bananas you eat fresh. It's because banana flavoring was developed in the mid-19th century, even before Americans knew what real bananas tasted like. That doesn't mean that the flavoring was wrong; in fact it was very close to the taste of real bananas. But those bananas were the Gros Michel variety. That's the banana that Americans went crazy over when they began to be imported on a large scale. Gros Michel was the type of banana you found in stores up until the mid-1950s. Then it was replaced by the Cavendish variety, which is what we have in every grocery store now. And it tastes different.

Brandon Summers-Miller wanted to taste a Gros Michel banana to see how different that variety is from the ubiquitous Cavendish strain. It was difficult to find any, but he managed to have some shipped to him. Then he tested Cavendish and Gros Michel bananas in old recipes that were designed with the Gros Michel banana in mind, namely bananas Foster and banana pudding. Note for the banana pudding, he made sure to use vanilla pudding instead of artificially-flavored banana pudding for the comparison. The taste tests revealed what we have lost. Read about that comparison, and the history of banana varieties at Epicurious. And if you want to know what a Michel Gros banana tastes like, try a piece of artificially-flavored banana candy. Or go to a farmer's market in Southeast Asia. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Juan Emilio Prades Bel)

The Many Factors That Made "Money for Nothing" a Mega-Hit

Dire Straits released the song "Money for Nothing" in 1985 and it went to #1 for three weeks, becoming the biggest song of the year. But it also holds up well almost 40 years later. Ask anyone why, and you might get six different answers. It's got a great beat that you can dance to, a killer guitar riff, a story to tell, a hot cultural reference (for 1985), and Sting's unmistakable vocals parodying his own song. Oh yeah, and a video that was way ahead of its time. None of those things came about by accident. Well, some of them did. Actually, most of them did. We know that the idea came from an actual conversation Mark Knopfler heard in a store, but the rest of the production was a series of wild stories. Imagine recording a song in the Caribbean, and what do you know, Sting just happens to be there vacationing that week. David Hartley tells the story of the many ideas that strangely converged into one song that become "Money for Nothing."

Maybe Neanderthals Didn't Go Extinct After All

We once speculated on the reasons that the Neanderthals died out, and came up with plenty of possibilities. Maybe modern humans killed them off for their territory, or they were wiped out by diseases brought in my modern humans, or they just couldn't compete for resources. Then we found out by genetic studies that homo sapiens interbred with Neanderthals, and now most of us carry around a little Neanderthal DNA.  

Even more recent studies are possible now that we have decoded the genome of some actual Neanderthal remains. These show that Neanderthals that lived hundred of thousands of years ago already carried a chunk of homo sapiens DNA, even more than the traces of Neanderthal DNA we have now. The studies suggest that interbreeding between the two peoples began as far back as 250,000 years ago. The implication is that maybe Neanderthals didn't disappear because of some calamity. Considering their population numbers compared to homo sapiens over time, they may have merely been absorbed into modern human communities until their genome was diminished to the fraction that we carry today. Read how the research points to this possibility at Live Science. -via Strange Company

Make Backpacking Easier with a Huge Helium Balloon

The Outside TV network covers a lot of outdoor sports, from competitive running to leisurely camping. They sometimes play around with fanciful inventions. Lately, the crew has experimented with practical uses for large helium balloons. For example, could a sufficiently large balloon negate the weight of a full pack? Yes, it can. Just make sure that you don't put too much helium in the balloon or you may lose your backpack.

Continue reading

ThIs ATM Dispenses Sausage Rolls

Greggs, a bakery chain in the UK, and the bank Monzo recently had an online conversation about the possibility jointly creating an ATM that, instead of distributing money, distributes sausage rolls. ITV News reports that this project launched yesterday in Newcastle and had people lining up to make withdrawals.

-via No Time to Dan

Egg Scenes in Famous Movies

Patrick Tomasso is a filmmaker and critic. His YouTube channel consists mostly of detailed analyses of particular aspects of particular movies. On X, though, he's posted this video that compiles egg cooking and eating scenes in films. 

I instantly recognized Hot Shots, Cool Hand Luke, and Fury. Others I had to look up. Fortunately, Tomasso provides a complete list on Letterboxd. Can you think of any other egg scenes that he should have included? Aside from Star Trek: Generations, of course.

The US Marine Who Became a King

Faustin Wirkus was born in the Russian Empire and, as a child, immigrated to the United States. He lived in poverty, but was determined to better himself by enlisting in the US Marine Corps. The Marine Corps Times reports that he was among the troops participating in the US occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934.

In 1926, he was on Gonâve Island when he rescued a young woman who was threated with arrest for engaging in voodoo. This woman was Ti Memenne, the Queen of Gonâve.

Gunnery Sergeant Wirkus loved Haiti and eagerly sought reassignment to Gonâve Island. While there, he exposed rampant graft in the tax collection system, helped build the island's first airfield, and conducted the island's first census.

The people of the island loved Wirkus and his works. He also fit neatly into a prophecy that they had: a previous king, also named Faustin, had disappeared in 1848, promising to one day return. The islanders belived that Wirkus must be the reincarnation of this king and so, in 1926, crowned him King Faustin II in a voodoo ceremony.

King Faustin II and Queen Ti Memenne ruled together for three years and, by all accounts, ruled well. Then the Gunnery Sergeant received transfer orders back to the United States, bringing an abrupt halt to his reign.

-via US Naval Institute

Weird Al Makes Pop Music into Polka with "Polkamania"

If your day is not going all that great, a little polka music will fix that right up! "Weird Al" Yankovic just dropped a new polka medley with the classic oom-pah beat and accordion you'd expect. But these aren't classic polka tunes. "Polkamania" has 13 polka versions of relatively new pop songs like "WAP" by Cardi B. ft. Megan Thee Stallion and "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X and "Thank You, Next" from Ariana Grande. Not only that, but Yankovic recruited a slate of animators you may be familiar with to illustrate those tunes, some of them who came to his attention when they made Weird Al fan videos. I was hooked as soon as Cyriak Harris' unmistakable style led things off. Some of them snuck in references to other Weird Al songs that only true fans will recognize. You'll find a list of the songs and a list of the animators at the YouTube page.

The Difference Between James Bond and Real-Life Spies

"Bond. James Bond. I'm not like other spies." Most of us never get the chance to see our jobs portrayed on the silver screen, because they aren't that interesting to the general public. Those who do complain that Hollywood doesn't get their profession right at all. That applies very much to James Bond, the fictional MI6 agent who is the best known spy of all. Real intelligence agents can easily see that Bond is too flashy, too self-sufficient, and too adventurous to make it in the real world business of espionage. But a realistic portrayal of the profession wouldn't draw millions into a theater.

Alma Katsu is a former US intelligence officer, or what people refer to as a spy, who turned to writing spy novels. She and her former colleagues have a love-hate relationship with James Bond. But as an author, she understands why the fictional version is portrayed like a superhero, while the real work is carried out by heroes who never get recognized. Read what she has to say about Bond at CrimeReads. -via Damn Interesting

Peter Dinklage Reads a Dam Good Defense of Beavers

In 1997, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality notified Stephen Tvedten that he was in violation of regulations because of two unauthorized dams built on his property, and gave him six weeks to remove them. Tvedten did not build those dams, nor did a named tenant build them. It was the beavers who did it. Tvedten was an expert on pest control, and had written several books on eco-friendly ways to manage pests. He knew his beavers. So he wrote a letter to the department in response. The letter did its job, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality dropped the case.  

The letter brought Tvedten some notoriety over the years, never more so than when Letters of Note published it in 2012. When that post went viral, MLive interviewed Tvedten, who said he was more famous for that letter that he dashed off in ten minutes than for anything else he's ever done. Tvedten died in 2018. His letter was selected for a Letters Live show in New York, read by Peter Dinklage.

PhD Acknowledgements: When Scientists Get Emotional

A PhD candidate is buried in science for years on end. Their final dissertation, or thesis, is presented in a precise format, full of math and facts that have been checked over and over. But there's one place that a scientist can write prose from the heart, and that is the acknowledgement section of the dissertation. Tabitha Carvan dove into the archives of the Australian National University College of Science and found that PhD acknowledgements contain a certain kind of poetry.

The rest of the thesis contains careful, reasoned findings and figures, but on this one page, the author-scientist can release all the pent-up emotion they couldn’t express elsewhere.

They’re like an explosion in a lab.

Carvan discovered that acknowledgements written before 1980 or so were very businesslike, but more recent ones drew a picture of the scientist who wrote these things in their head over and over for years. She gathered quite a few segments of poetic and representative samples for us, from the simple to the heartfelt to the funny to those that combined all of the above. Just a line or two tells us about the real person behind all that science in the rest of the paper. You won't be able to read them all without getting a little verklempt.  -via Metafilter

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