Never Bet Against a Raccoon


(YouTube link)

Think you're going to outsmart a hungry raccoon with your silly "technology"? Watch this trash panda foil a critter-proof bird feeder! You get the idea that it's not the first time he's seen this kind of setup. While the folks inside admit defeat, they are impressed with both the raccoon's intelligence and his dexterity. -via Tastefully Offensive


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How Jurassic Park Changed the Way Movies Looked at Dinosaurs

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opened nationwide yesterday, and it inspired Keith Phipps to look at the 100-year history of dinosaur movies, including the original Jurassic Park from 1993.

Jurassic Park succeeds in part by breaking with the two approaches that have dominated dinosaur movies from the start: portraying them as bloodthirsty monsters or as cuddly anthropomorphized creatures. And the history of dinosaur movies is a long one, one almost as old as movies themselves. In fact, the medium developed alongside our understanding of what dinosaurs were — even if dinosaur movies didn’t always reflect this growing understanding.

He starts with the live-action Primitive Man and the animation Gertie the Dinosaur, both from 1914. Then there are the monsters-fighting-monsters films from the mid-20th century, many of them with dinos by Ray Harryhausen. Then the kids' films of the 1980s made dinosaurs cuddly again. Jurassic Park had both, but gave us some real, if implausible, science about dinosaurs and the ethical questions surrounding it. The best part of the article at Vulture is the many videos of trailers, clips, and complete films that illustrate the evolution of dinosaurs in film. -via Digg


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Did Mary Poppins go to Hogwarts?

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She was prim and proper, educated, and wielded en enchanted umbrella. Was Mary Poppins trained in the magic arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? It makes so much sense! The various clues for this fan theory are explained in a video from Uproxx. Don't let the fact that Mary Poppins was a Disney movie and the Harry Potter films were from Warner Bros. make you doubt it. Remember, they were all together in the library to begin with.  


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Books Where the Dog Dies, Rewritten So the Dog Doesn’t Die

There are quite a few literary classics in which the characters must deal with the death of a beloved dog. It's heart wrenching, but sometimes it's there to make a point, and sometimes it is the entire reason for the story. But we don't need "reasons" for a dog to die, or "reasons" to come up with a way that the dog doesn't die. Riane Konc did just that, reworking well-known canine death scenes to make them less sad, and sometimes completely hilarious. Take The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck:

A big swift car squealed its tires and jerked his wheel, the car nearly tipping up on two tires as the vehicle narrowly missed the family pet.

“Dammit, but I won’t be a symbol for the suffocatin’ and murd’rous weight of capitalism and the myth of the American Dream on the day laborer and migrant worker by killin’ your pup with my sportscar!” the driver screamed out his window, giving the whole Joad family the finger.

And he wouldn’t. Everythin’ else — ev’ry death an’ loss an’ unjustice an’ tragedy an’ animal for the next 400 pages or so would basically drive that point home — but at least the whole time, through everything, the Joads had their beloved dog. He wasn’t very good symbolism, but he was a very good boy.

Read about the survival of good dogs from Old Yeller, Marley & Me, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Odyssey, and even Cujo at Electric Literature. -via Metafilter

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

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Kitten on the Freeway

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Hope for Paws got a notification of a kitten on the freeway in Los Angeles, on a fast lane with no shoulder. Eldad Hagar and Loreta Frankonyte were out transporting a dog with puppies, and did a detour to make a scary rescue. The kitten was scared, hungry, flea-ridden, and had infected eyes. There's no telling how long he was out there on the road by himself. But Napoleon was fed, bathed, treated, and named, and now has a bright future. -via Laughing Squid

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Simon Jansen's ASCIImation Version of Star Wars

In 1997, downloading a short video clip took forever, Flash animation was still in development, we had never heard of Midi-chlorians, and people with time on their hands created little pictures with ASCII characters. New Zealand Star Wars fan Simon Jansen was one of those casual artists who tried a little ASCII fan art from the first Star Wars movie, now called A New Hope, that turned into an 18-year project.     

For reasons that are a mystery even to himself, Simon Jansen began creating individual frames of A New Hope after a chain of joke emails. Though not particularly keen on animation or ASCII art, Jansen was just enough of a Star Wars obsessive to keep up with the project.

Obsessive is pretty much the only way to describe Jansen’s project. With more than 16,000 frames at 15 frames per second, the animation only lasts about 18 minutes. It’s not a perfect, shot-for-shot recreation. Those 18-plus minutes manage to cover almost 40 percent of the original. And Jansen had much less than that completed two years after he started the project, when he went viral before it was even a term.

As the years went by, Jansen added to his ASCII remake of Star Wars, while technology advanced to the point where amateur animators could turn out Star Wars fan films in a matter of hours. No doubt that's one of the reasons why Jansen quit adding frames in 2015, but what he accomplished is legendary. Read about Jansen's epic project at Tedium. And if you've got 18 minutes, you can watch ASCIImation Star Wars here. 


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Cassette Navigation 1971

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Imagine a GPS (or SatNav, if you're British) in 1971. There was such an idea, but since the satellite technology wasn't there yet, it came on pre-recorded cassette tapes that gave you directions as you played it. Watch how it works in this clip from the erstwhile TV show Tomorrow's World. Of course it could never work as advertised. If you ever made a wrong turn, the whole system would suddenly turn useless. Or if you were caught in a traffic jam, didn't drive the speed the cassette expected, or the machine ate the tape- which was a fairly common occurrence with cassettes. You would need to buy a new cassette for every new route, and once you drove there, you wouldn't need that tape again. I'm sure there were more reasons not to buy into this system. It would have been easier (and cheaper) to learn to read signs and maps, develop a sense of direction, and ask someone as a last resort. -via Nag on the Lake


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Jon by Gail Galligan

Once, Jon Arbuckle of the comic strip Garfield was voted "The Most Depressed Comic Book Character." He serves as a comic foil for his cynical cat Garfield. That's not quite the case in this version of Jon by cartoonist Gail Galligan. In two comics, she turns Arbuckle into the main character who's not so much depressed, but introverted in a way we can all understand. Part one is about a dinner party in which he meets his significant other Liz's college friends, three of them veterinarians like her. In part two, he goes to a comic convention for the first time in years.



Both adventures are frightening prospects for the shy cartoonist, but he powers through. Garfield and Odie are peripheral characters seen only occasionally watching the action. The comics are not jokes, but sweet and relatable stories that make Jon a three-dimensional person instead of a cat's punching bag. -via Metafilter   


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The Terrible Aerodynamics of Star Wars Ships

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Extreme nerdery incoming! EC Henry used a virtual wind tunnel to test the aerodynamics of the ships seen in the Star Wars movies. It becomes clear that they were designed to look cool, and not to work in a real atmosphere. But when you compare them to each other, the Rebels with their ugly ships were more realistic and might have even worked. -via io9


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The Tragic Roots of America’s Favorite Cherry

The most popular cherry in America is the dark red Bing cherry, but few know where its name came from. The variety was first developed at Seth Lewelling's orchard in Oregon. The Lewelling family had hauled 700 fruit trees out west in the mid 1800s to take advantage of the region's fertile land and mild weather. Ah Bing was a 6-foot-tall Chinese immigrant who worked for Lewelling for 30 years, earning money to send back to his wife and children in China.

As the foreman of Lewelling’s orchard crew, Ah Bing supervised more than 30 men. He worked closely with Lewelling on grafting, propagating, and caring for trees. The Bing cherry, Ledding recalled, surfaced one day when Lewelling and Ah Bing walked through the rows of cherry trees, where each man maintained separate rows. In Ah Bing’s row, there was a marvelous new type of cherry. Someone suggested that Lewelling name the cherry after himself. But Lewelling protested. He had already named a cherry for himself. “No, I’ll name this for Bing,” Ledding recalled him saying. “It’s a big cherry and Bing’s big, and anyway it’s in his row, so that shall be its name.”

But other stories portray Ah Bing as even more central to the development of the cherry. In 1922, the agricultural journal The Oregon Grower related that Lewelling had assigned a collection of “Black Republican” cherry seedlings to Ah Bing to care for in 1875. Ah Bing’s cultivation resulted in the Bing cherry, which, the author commented, would “pass his name down in horticultural history.”

The name stuck, but the connection to Ah Bing is little known. He was a victim of the Chinese Exclusion Act and suffered through riots as anti-Chinese sentiment worsened. Read about Ah Bing and his cherries at Atlas Obscura.


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Welcome to Marwen Trailer

(YouTube link)

For ten years now, we've followed the story of Mark Hogancamp, who created the intricate miniature World War II world called Marwencol. His art went viral, and led to a book and then a documentary about how Hogancamp used Marwencol as therapy after he suffered horrific injuries from a beating. Now his story is a feature film called Welcome to Marwen, starring Steve Carell as Hogancamp. The movie has an advantage over a documentary in that the dolls and action figures of Marwencol, or Marwen, come to life to support Hogancamp. Welcome to Marwen is scheduled to open on November 21. -via Tastefully Offensive


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R.I.P. Koko

The Gorilla Foundation has announced the passing of Koko. Koko the lowland gorilla was born at the San Francisco Zoo and was only one year old when she began to train in sign language with Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson. Koko's amazing ability to communicate led to the establishment of the Gorilla Foundation. She had a vocabulary of around 1,000 words in sign language and understood around 2,000 spoken words. Koko loved to watch movies and was an avid fan of the TV show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. She was the first non-human to successfully participate in an internet chat. Koko was famous for her loving relationship with cats, and her intense bonding with her first kitten.

Koko’s capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions. She has been featured in multiple documentaries and appeared on the cover of National Geographic twice. The first cover, in October of 1978, featured a photograph Koko had taken of herself in a mirror. The second issue, in January of 1985, included the story of Koko and her kitten, All Ball. Following the article, the book Koko’s Kitten was published and continues to be used in elementary schools worldwide. Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world.

Koko was 46.

(Image credit: Flickr user sid)


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Brazil's Geography Problem

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Brazil is a big country, with a lot of people, so why isn't it a world power? The answers lie in the very things that make Brazil unique. The land that it covers is very different from smaller nations. Wendover productions looks at Brazil and its geography. -via Digg


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How to Decorate Like a Viking

Archaeological excavations of ancient sites usually don't come in color, as hundreds of years and exposure to air, water, and/or soil will fade the original colors. But archaeologists in Denmark have studied the materials and pigments used in Viking paint to approximate what they might have looked like when they were new. The Vikings made paint out of various pigments bound with milk, eggs, or linseed oil, and used it to decorate their buildings. Some colors were more expensive than others, and some had cultural meaning.

It is not insignificant which colours the Vikings used on their houses. For example, some colours were rarer than others and were costly having been imported over long distances, says archaeologist Lars Holten, director of Sagnlandet Lejre and co-author on the new report.

“We know that the symbolism of colour is enormously important in all cultures. Red, white, and black are some of the most common and have similar symbolism among numerous cultures,” says Holten.

One of the more expensive colours is the red ‘cinnabar’ (number 5 on the interactive chart above), and it was likely used by chieftains or princes as a status symbol to demonstrate power over their surroundings, says Holten.

The Viking paints that have been identified so far have been posted at an interactive site, where you can learn the ingredients, cost, and symbolism of each color. Read more about the research into Viking color at Science Nordic. -via Metafilter


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All Cats Go to Heaven

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Bruce and Terry Jenkins have led an interesting life. Now that they are retired, they spend their time running a private shelter called Cat's Cradle. They have 30 cats, all of them rescues, elderly cats who have outlived their original owner. They get to spend their sunset years being loved and fussed over by the Jenkins. They are awesome people. Stay for the credits, where we get to see the finished butterfly garden. -via The Atlantic

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

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Brooklyn's New Domino Park

(Image credit: Scott Beale)

Domino Sugar operated a sugar refinery on the East River in Brooklyn from 1858 until 2004. It lay abandoned until 2012, when Two Trees Management Company bought it, and this summer it has opened as Domino Park. The park has green space, game courts, flowers, an interactive fountain, playground equipment, a fog bridge, and a dog run. The park incorporates structures from the historic factory, such as these sugar augers.  

(Image credit: Scott Beale)

See more pictures that show how an old factory can become a community park and still retain its history at Laughing Squid.


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An Honest Trailer for Jurassic Park III

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom officially opens Friday, although you can attend previews on Thursday. This will be the fifth movie in the Jurassic Park franchise, which began in 1993. However, the sequels came to a screeching halt in 2001 when Jurassic Park III came out. It was the first of the movies not to be directed by Steven Spielberg, and the first that wasn't based on a book. It made money, but was not well received. Screen Junkies explains why in an Honest Trailer for Jurassic Park III. Fourteen years went by before producers were healed from the trauma enough to bring us Jurassic World. -via Geeks Are Sexy


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An Important Lesson About Service Dogs

We all love service dogs, and we are in awe of their abilities and their loyalty. You're not supposed to pet one without permission, because they are on duty. It took time and the internet for people to learn that rule. But what if a service dog approaches you? That would be surprising, but it happens. For a reason. Lumpatronics told a story about how and why a service dog might come up to you.

So today I tripped. Fell flat on my face, it was awful but ultimately harmless. My service dog, however, is trained to go get an adult if I have a seizure, and he assumed this was a seizure (were training him to do more to care for me, but we didn’t learn I had epilepsy until a year after we got him)

I went after him after I had dusten off my jeans and my ego, and I found him trying to get the attention of a very annoyed woman. She was swatting him away and telling him to go away. So I feel like I need to make this heads up

If a service dog without a person approaches you, it means the person is down and in need of help

Now you know. They are truly being Lassie, asking you to come save Timmy from the well. -via The Daily Dot  

Update: Nicolas Steenhout, an accessibility consultant, says this is not how most service dogs are trained to get help. He explains in this Twitter thread. -Thanks, Gristle McNerd!

(Image credit: Lextergrace)

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Freezing 200,000 Tons of Lethal Arsenic Dust

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Giant Mine near Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories, extracted a lot of gold in its time. Then the gold ran out, and the company went bankrupt in 2004. They left behind 237,000 metric tons of arsenic trioxide as a side effect of the mining operation, although that amount does not include the arsenic that has escaped into the environment. You can read more about Giant Mine's history here. The Canadian government was left to deal with the arsenic. Tom Scott introduces us to the technology that won't destroy the arsenic, but will keep the dust from seeping into the air and water. Read more about the Giant Mine Remediation Project at its website. -via Digg


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Postcards From The Honeymoon Capital Of The World

Vacationing in the Poconos Mountains goes way back into the early part of the 20th century. But in 1945, as soldiers returned from the war and got married, Farm on the Hill became the first "honeymoon resort" in the Poconos, and others soon followed. There were plenty of honeymoon accommodations to select from, like the "honeymoon mansionette" pictured above, complete with fireplace, plastic flowers, sky-blue decor, and a TV with a matching blue screen of death. There were plenty of recreational opportunities, like archery, swimming, golf, canoeing, and table tennis, as well as lounges and restaurants.



Some hotels went all in on the honeymoon idea as the 1960s progressed, with heart-shaped bathtubs during the era of "affluent vulgarity," which extended the potential clientele to unmarried couples ready to pay for a getaway. See a roundup of postcards from the Poconos during its honeymoon heyday at Flashbak. -via Everlasting Blort


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Lucas the Spider in Naptime

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Lucas the adorable young spider (previously at Neatorama) is looking for a place to nap. It has to be perfect: private and cozy and away from distractions. When you are a tiny spider, there are a lot of spots to choose from! Spoiler- he finds a good place.  -via Laughing Squid


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12 Things You Might Not Know About Juneteenth

While news spread through the rest of the country that the Civil War was over, Confederates in Texas fought on for another six weeks until June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston that slaves were now free. That date has been commemorated in Texas and elsewhere ever since as Juneteenth. But it didn't mean that the enslaved people of Texas were actually free from that day.

5. NOT ALL SLAVES WERE FREED INSTANTLY.

Texas is a large state, and General Granger's order (and troops to enforce it) were slow to spread. According to historian James Smallwood, many enslavers deliberately suppressed the information until after the harvest, and some beyond that. In July 1867 there were two separate reports of slaves being freed, and one report of a Texas horse thief named Alex Simpson whose slaves were only freed after his hanging in 1868.

6. FREEDOM CREATED OTHER PROBLEMS.

Despite the announcement, Texas slave owners weren't too eager to part with what they felt was their property. When legally freed slaves tried to leave, many of them were beaten, lynched, or murdered. "They would catch [freed slaves] swimming across [the] Sabine River and shoot them," a former slave named Susan Merritt recalled.

Read more facts about Juneteenth, its origins and annual celebration, at Mental Floss.


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Too Many Vitamins

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T.J. was a 14-year-old who ate gummy vitamins as if they were candy. It was a language problem- he thought they were candy. While he ate too many every day, the day he consumed an entire bottle (150 gummies), he landed in the hospital with strange symptoms. YouTuber Chubbyemu (previously at Neatorama) takes us through the process of diagnosis and treatment, and explains in detail what a vitamin overdose does to one's body. It's not pretty. Chubbyemu has a series of horrific medical stories in his YouTube channel.  -via reddit


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That Time the U.S. Postal Service Tried Delivering Mail By Missile

In June of 1959, the US Postal Service, in conjunction with the US military, shot 3,000 letters from a submarine across 200 miles to a Naval Auxiliary Air Station in Florida. The letters were all the same, since this was a demonstration intended to show the Soviet Union how accurate American missiles were. But it was far from the first time folks attempted to deliver mail by rocket.  

For example, in the late 19th century in Tonga, residents of the island of Niuafo’ou decided to try using Congreve rockets to send and receive mail. You see, the island’s lack of beaches and harbour, as well as the presence of the second deepest oceanic trench in the world, the Tonga Trench, right next to it (making it impossible to anchor), meant getting mail from ship to land wasn’t something regularly done, despite ships frequently passing by.

The ultimate solution to leverage the existing ship traffic here for sending and receiving mail was simply to have ships drop cans containing mail into the water and then blast their horns as they passed by. Strong swimmers would then swim out to try to collect the cans before the current did. Likewise, the swimmers would carry messages from the island out to the shipping lane to drop off, with the canned letters picked up when the ships passed. This all eventually earned Niuafo’ou the nickname of Tin Can Island.

But before they earned that moniker, they decided to go with the Congreve rockets, which is definitely a missed opportunity here in terms of a more badass nickname.  

Mail delivery by those Congreve rockets was discontinued for the same reason other plans failed- the rockets were unreliable and not all that accurate. By the time missiles were accurate enough to do the job, we had planes going to all parts of the world anyway. Read about the many plans and projects to deliver mail by missile at Today I Found Out.  


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Parrot Sings "Bacon Pancakes"


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Milo the Quaker parrot sings along with his human, Erica Croke. The song is a classic, "Bacon Pancakes" from the TV show Adventure Time. Milo must watch the show a lot, or he sings it a lot, or he just loves making -or eating- pancakes. You can see more of Milo at his Facebook page. -via Tastefully Offensive

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Why Finns Don't Want to be Happy

Are people in Finland happy or not? They have beautiful scenery, world-class schools, Santa Claus, weird sports such as wife-carrying and phone throwing, a robust social safety net, Northern Lights, and the government gives every new baby a box of supplies just for being born. Yet Finns are renowned for their dour, sometimes fatalistic outlook on life. And now there's a survey that proclaims how happy they are.

According to the 2018 World Happiness Report, based on research conducted by Gallup, Finland is the happiest country in the world. The Finns are not so sure about the result, though – being, as they are, a typically stoic sort of people.

“Nordic people, and the Finns in particular, are emotionally introverted,” explained Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, an independent think tank in Denmark that studies happiness and wellbeing. “They rarely rank highly on expressions of joy or anger – they are very different in that way from people from Latin America, for example, who have a more exuberant emotional expression as a people. For [the Finns], happiness is more about living a reserved, balanced and resilient life.”

The seeming contradiction is in how you define your terms. The survey measured quality of life, which many people would assume leads to happiness. The word "happy" itself brings up a picture of people expressing joy, as in that song by Pharrell Williams. In Finland, the two don't quite meet, as you can read about at BBC Travel. They also explain kalsarikänni, or the tradition of getting drunk at home in your underwear. -via Digg

(Image credit: Flickr user Mariano Mantel)


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The Walking Houseplant

Francis (franktasia 2000) discovered that his potted plant had sprouted legs! Is it getting ready to run away from home? Is it Groot? Audrey 2? In case you're wondering, this is a dragon tree, or Dracaena marginata. Among the jokes, gifs, and advice in the comments are some adorable drawings of the plant, which were all done in a hurry since this picture was only posted yesterday.

Continue reading for more.

Continue reading

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Why Are There No Mosquitoes at Disney World?

(YouTube link)

The worst tourist mosquito experience I know is Roanoke Island in North Carolina, and the best is at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. But when you go to Walt Disney World in Orlando, you're too busy having fun to notice the lack of mosquitos. The theme park is built on a swamp in Florida, so what gives? The truth is that Disney goes to great lengths to control the mosquito population. Rob Plays explains how that happens.


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The 100 Greatest YouTube Videos of All Time, Ranked

YouTube has only been around for 13 years, but in that time has hosted some of the funniest, weirdest, most interesting short subjects you'll ever see. The ones that went wildly viral will be familiar to you, maybe all 100 of the ranked videos at Thrillist, which has embedded all 100 YouTube videos for your viewing pleasure. Stroll down memory lane with Charlie The Unicorn (99), Dramatic Chipmunk (84), Miss Teen USA 2007 (76), Trololo (68), Boom Goes the Dynamite (18), and many other viral videos you've forgotten about by now, but will make you laugh all over again. Then you can commence arguing about the ones they left off the list.


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The Heyday of Penny Restaurants

Penny restaurants were diners where you could get a decent meal without spending hardly any money. You could find them in some cities as far back as the turn of the 20th century, and they spread tremendously during the Great Depression. Penny restaurants were mostly run by charities, but the food wasn't free, because that would rob the transaction of its dignity.

T.M. Finney, who managed a St. Louis penny restaurant run by the local Provident Association, laid out the enduring modus operandi of charitable restaurants. “The aim of the scheme is to afford poor people to maintain their self-respect and reduce the number of beggars,” Finney stated.

At his establishment, every item cost a penny: A meal of half a pound of bread, soup, potatoes, pork and beans, and coffee only cost hungry customers five cents. Breadlines, where miserable hundreds waited hours for free food, were an all-too-common sight during the Depression. Penny restaurants were the dignified alternative.

Penny restaurants always appeared during times of financial trouble, but they reached their greatest prominence during the Great Depression. In 1933, unemployment was at 25 percent nationwide. A whole new cuisine of make-do was developing across the country, from starchy slugburgers to pork masquerading as higher-end chicken. At penny restaurants, food was simple and often meatless.

Some existing eateries got into the penny restaurant business as a hybrid, adding a section to their existing restaurant to serve the indigent. And at least one businessman could afford to give away free meals along with paid meals because the volume was so high. Clifford Clinton was some restauranteur, as one of his dining spots is still in business, although you can no longer get a free meal. Read about the rise and fall of penny restaurants at Atlas Obscura.


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