Carlo Collodi and the Original Pinocchio

Americans know Pinocchio, the wooden boy, mainly as a cute character in a Disney movie. Students in college literature classes are surprised to learn how rich and complex the original version is, and how very Italian it is. Carlo Collodi first wrote Pinocchio as a series of magazine stories beginning in 1881. In his version, the tale begins with a block of wood that talks, and becomes a puppet in the hands of a poor woodcarver who dreams of making some money with a carved puppet that talks. Pinocchio himself is less of a cute, naive kid and more of a brat who gets into trouble constantly.

Collodi imbued his story with plenty of political satire, poking fun at the rich and powerful and warning the common folks of their evil intentions. The author spent his younger years fighting to unite Italy into a single nation, and his later years promoting education for the masses amid a push for literacy in the country. Pinocchio suffers massively for his contrary ways- he was burned, hanged, thrown into the ocean, and jailed during the series. Once he was actually killed, but was brought back by magic due to popular demand. Eventually Pinocchio learns to buckle down and become a good student, but he also learned some street smarts along the way.

Smithsonian takes us to the village of Collodi, which Carlo Lorenzini used as his pen name, to see the influences the environment had on the birth of Pinocchio, and what the delinquent puppet means to the village today.

An Honest Trailer for Morbius

The Sony film Morbius, based on the Marvel comic book, had such an intriguing premise, but the execution was dismal. A scientist/doctor conducts experiments, hoping to cure his own blood disease and in the process turns himself into a reluctant vampire. How could that go wrong? According to Screen Junkies, the movie is a confusing mess because they cut so much out of it that would have explained what we are watching. What's left are action scenes highlighting special effects that aren't all that good. While the film opened well and made a profit, the audience dropped steeply after its first weekend. The critics lauded Jared Leto's performance in the title role, but conceded that the plot was a confusing mess. Morbius has a score of 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's a pity, because that story could have made a deeply thoughtful film in the right hands.   

Cat Attempts Time Travel

What's going on here? The cat is pawing at the clock, which seems innocent enough. But his human, Japanese Twitter user @MikasaLove611, insists his intentions are nefarious.

The cat has learned that the human does not present food until it is 9 o'clock. The clock must have a particular appearance for the human to provide food.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc. By altering the appearance of the clock, the cat can move forward to 9 o'clock, or at least convince the human that it is now feeding time.

Time Cat could use his powers to be a superhero. But Time Cat is a cat and is thus unconcerned with the affairs of humans who are not directly involved with feeding him.

-via Super Punch

The Camera Case Bikini

Artist Nicole McLaughlin jokingly suggests that you "take a picture it'll last longer." She's famous for repurposing old objects as articles of clothing, leading to unusual combinations, such as the tennis ball hat, the croissant bra, a volleyball purse, and the Oreo slipper.

Her latest creation gets us ready for the summer heat with a bikini made from Canon camera cases. The straps provide all of the elastic flexibility that you need if you haven't gotten beach body ready yet. The built-in pockets are no doubt helpful, as one still needs to carry sunscreen, keys, and money while on the beach.

The Last Public Payphones in New York City Are Gone

They're icons of a great era in the history of New York City and a staple of film scenes from the Big Apple. And now they're gone. The city government began removing payphones in 2014 and replacing them with kiosks that offer Wi-Fi and mobile device charging. There are now 2,000 such kiosks across the city.

That conversion project is in its final phase. CNBC reports that the final payphone kiosk at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Fiftieth Street in midtown Manhattan has been removed. It will be placed on display at the Museum of the City of New York as part of an exhibit on life in that city before the computer age.

Pants-Mounted Pet Carrier

Let's say that you need to transport your pet somewhere, such as the veterinarian's office or the local public library. You would like to keep both of your hands free to, say, open doors or fight off the undead. You could wear a pet carrier backpack, but those look dorky. A far more distinguished look is this pet carrier made by Ari Serrano who creates streetwear for modern needs.

If you don't have a pet and therefore no justification for wearing these stylish pants/pet carrier, then consider trying his fan hat, his halo hat, his chalkboard pants, or his Operation game bubble jacket.

-via Ugly Design

Octopus: The Alien Intelligence Among Us

It takes a certain amount of hubris to believe that intelligent alien life forms would be anything like humans. That unconscious assumption makes it easier for Hollywood, but is actually quite limiting. Intelligence can evolve in ways we cannot even imagine, but we should try to. We have an example right here on earth, although separated from us by the environment of the ocean. We know an octopus is intelligent, but its neurological system is very different from all the land animals we are familiar with. They have more neurons in their arms and suckers than in their brains. Those neurons process sensation and communicate and coordinate all along the system. “It’s not about how intelligent they are, it’s about how they are intelligent.”

Now imagine this video from Lizbeth's perspective. She was abducted by an alien species, taken to a lab, studied, scanned, and experimented on, and then brought back home unharmed. Do you think any of her friends are going to believe that tale? -via Digg

The People Who Built Stonehenge, and Their Poop

The Neolithic people who built Stonehenge 4,500 years ago left behind an amazing monument, but that's not all they left behind. They also left their trash and body waste in the village of Durrington Walls, where they are believed to have lived while erecting the stone circle. Scientists have studied coprolites, or fossilized feces, found in the dump. These have been identified as both human and canine. They found parasite eggs, most notably capillariid eggs, in some of the samples.

Capillariid worms don't normally infest humans, and the people who passed them probably didn't suffer from them. But it gives us a clue as to what they ate. That would be beef and pork, including organ meats, not cooked well enough to kill the parasites. The canine samples also contained the eggs, which indicates that humans shared their undercooked food with the dogs. These findings bolster other clues about the people who lived there, like their festive gatherings that drew travelers from far away. Read what we've learned about the builders of Stonehenge from the trash they left behind at Smithsonian.

(Image credit: garethwiscombe)

Fallen Baby Sloth Returned to Mother

You may have wondered at one time or another whether sloths ever fall out of trees. They do, but they have evolved physically to survive long falls. Earlier this month, a baby brown-throated three-toed sloth was found near a beach in Costa Rica. Volunteers from the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca rushed the infant to a vet to be checked out. The baby was okay, so they took it back, hoping to find its mother.

The mother sloth had probably looked for the baby, but sloths have terrible eyesight. She had already climbed halfway back up her tree when the crew arrived with the baby. They summoned the mother with the recorded cry of the baby (iPhones are really handy). The mother made her way back down, a sequence that is edited in this video because it probably took a loooong time. After we get to see the reunion, they play it again, to show how the volunteer climbed up to meet her. What a sweet reunion! That baby won't let go of mama again for a long time.  -via Digg

The Con Man Who Put His Clients in Coffins

Con man William Penn Patrick understood the basics of relieving people of their money: 1. people want to believe there's an easy way to get rich, and 2. when they realize they've been conned they are often too embarrassed to admit it. Patrick's three most notorious businesses, launched between 1963 and 1974, were lucrative but also unethical and dangerous.  

Holiday Magic purportedly sold cosmetics, but that was just the gimmick. It was a pyramid scheme, in which every participant's income depended on recruiting others, even after their initial investment. Spectrum Air repaired planes, with deadly results. And Patrick's Leadership Dynamics Institute was an expensive course in self-improvement that involved torture to toughen participants up. The activities included lying in coffins, being semi-crucified, whipping, kicking, humiliation, eating bad food, and even worse. Eventually the FTC and other in investigative bodies caught up with him. Read the story of William Penn Patrick and his scams at Mental Floss.

How to Play "Happy Birthday" Like Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Bach, and Mozart

Nicole Pesce is a concert pianist of the highest caliber. She's been at work since early childhood, having memorized over 500 songs by the age of  7. Now, as an adult, she's personally composed over 300 and is famous for her comedic performances reminscent of the late Victor Borge.

In this concert delivered in 2011, Pesce imagined what the classic tune "Happy Birthday" would sound like if it had been written by famous classical composers. She mixes up that song with Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", Chopin's "Military Polonaise", Brahms's "Lullaby", Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor", and a Mozart piece that I can't name.

For the final bit, Pesce imagines Mozart performing it while very drunk. Quite athletically, she plays the piano while upside down. Pesce takes her inspiration from a particular scene in the film Amadeus.

-via Nag on the Lake

Signs of the Times

There's a Facebook group called simply Funny Signs. Anyone can go look, and 4500 people have joined in order to post funny signs. Be warned that it is a time sink, as you keep scrolling to see the strangeness of modern signs. See, we ignored posted signs for so long that those who create them had no choice but to get creative just on the off chance that you might read one. And creativity pays off!

It's amazing what you can find entertaining if you just pay attention. You can see a roundup of 40 such signs at Bored Panda, or go directly to the Facebook group to keep up with the flood of incoming signs. 

Blowing up Dad's Toilet

Finnish madman Lauri Vuohensilta (previously at Neatorama) loves to destroy things in dramatic fashion. He's managed to obtain some high-performance fireworks to blow up various objects like handbags and mail boxes, but the ultimate goal is to blow up the toilet from his father's workshop. Now, to be honest, it appears that the toilet was being replaced anyway, and they took it outside to give it a respectful send off after 50 years of service. We also get to meet Lauri's father, and find that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. The elder Vuohensilta finds the explosion a success, noting that at least the toilet doesn't leak anymore. But wait! There's more! They also blow up a washing machine and a car. "That was a big boom!" A good time was had by all. -via Fark

130,000-year-old Tooth Reveals More About Denisovans

The ancient human species known as Denisovans were first identified by fossil fragments in Siberia. More were found in Tibet. And although Denisovans disappeared as a species 50,000 years ago, DNA studies show that traces of Denisovan DNA exist today in people throughout southeast Asia. And now scientists have finally found a Denisovan fossil in southeast Asia, in Laos to be exact. Samples of sediment removed in 2018 from Tam Ngu Hao 2, also known as Cobra Cave, contain animal teeth and a human child's molar. The tooth, estimated to be 164,000 to 131,000 years old, is almost certainly Denisovan. It shares some morphological dimensions of Neanderthal teeth, but no remains of Neanderthals have ever been discovered that far south in Asia.    

We know that several human species inhabited Asia at one time or another, including Denisovans, H. erectus, H. neanderthalenis, H. floresiensis, H. luzonensis, and H. sapiens. We also know that they interbred, although the exact timeline of the interactions between each species is not yet clear. Read more about the new Denisovan identification at Archaeology World. -via Strange Company 

(Image credit: Fabrice Demeter, et al)

A Very Gentle Rejection Letter from David Attenborough

Rejection, whether is from a job or a date, can be painful. But sometimes, when it happens, the person turning us away can be kind about it.

David Attenborough, a British broadcaster most famous for creating and narrating nature programs, such as Life on Earth, has a public reputation as a gentleman. He does not casually cut down people who seek his aid.

James Mielke, a producer for the video game design studio Limited Run Games, once attempted to enlist Attenborough as a voiceover artist for the game Jupiter & Mars. That's an underwater, immersive VR experience, so Attenborough would be an ideal narrator.

Attenborough thanked Mielke for the invitation, but demurred. He doesn't do fiction narration in order to maintain a specific public image. But he let Mielke down gently.

-via Richard Eisenbeis

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