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The 50 Greatest Western Movies Ever Made

Vulture has produced another list that might make you angry, or might be an opportunity to explore a movie genre you want to know more about. Westerns are particularly American movies, even when they are produced elsewhere. They range from action films to history lessons, from comedies to social commentaries, from art films to mindless romps. There are so many of them that the compilers set some limits.  

This list of the 50 greatest Westerns reflects that wide legacy from the very first entry, a film directed by a Hungarian and starring a Tasmanian. It’s been assembled, however, working from a fairly traditional definition of the Western: films set along the America frontier of the 19th and the first years of the 20th century. That means no modern Westerns, no stealth Westerns starring aged X-Men, and no space Westerns with blasters instead of pistols. (We did, however, make an exception for a certain comedy that concludes with its stars attending its own premiere.)

That, of course, still leaves a lot of great Westerns. More, of course, than could possibly fit on a top-50 list interested in capturing the full scope of the genre. As such, not every John Ford film made the list. Anthony Mann and James Stewart made eight Westerns together. Any of them could have been included, but not all of them have been. This list is designed to double as a guide to the genre’s many different forms in the hopes it will send readers to corners they might not know and reconsider some classics they might not have seen before.

The list at Vulture features synopses of each movie and a justification for its inclusion, and some trailers, although not as many as we'd like to see. -via Digg


The Careful Work of Breathing Life Into the Corpse Flower

The corpse flower isn't called that because it's dead, but rather because its smell resembles that of rotten flesh, which draws flies for pollination. But the seven existing species of corpse flowers are endangered due to human encroachment. Preventing them from going extinct is a real job, as the plants are tropical and their seeds tend to die when dried or frozen. Numbers are extremely low, and they go years between blooming, which puts their genetic diversity at stake, so a consortium of botanical gardens are working together in a project called TREES to save corpse flowers.   

To help breed on this unpredictable schedule, the Chicago Botanic Garden is creating a store of corpse flower pollen, which can be sent across the country when another specimen that isn’t closely related blooms. These targeted cross-pollination efforts could lead to more genetically robust offspring. While TREES has yet to lead to a crossing of corpse flowers, the Chicago Botanic Garden has used the methodology to strategically cross another plant called Brighamia insignis, also known as a cabbage-on-a-stick plant, which is critically endangered.

Only time will tell if this scheme can save the corpse flower. Read more about the effort at Atlas Obscura.


Objection-bot Turns Reddit Drama into Courtroom Drama

If you ever get into the comments at reddit, you know how they can start to resemble a free-for-all sometimes. To have some fun with the drama, South African software engineer Micah Price built an application that sniffs out controversial exchanges and sets them into the world of the video game Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The exchanges caught so far appear to be drama for drama's sake, for the amusement of the entire forum.

Even better, everybody can join in the fun — all you need to do to trigger the bot is add "!objectionbot" or "!objection-bot" to a Reddit comment on certain supported subreddits (you can view the full list of those here). The bot then scans the thread, finds the top commenters, and turns their discussion into a YouTube video that's then automatically linked to in the thread (the "objection!" graphic happens when a comment has a negative score, or if the bot's neural network detects the tone of the comment to be negative).

Price said the whole thing took him about three days to put together. "I wasn't sure if it would be popular so didn't want to spent much longer on it," he said. "I used Python and a bunch of computer vision and machine learning libraries. It's uber buggy at the moment, though."

If you don't want to trigger the bot yourself, just keep your eye out on reddit for u/objection-bot to respond with "Here's the video!" See them linked here. Read more about the sudden rise of objection-bot at Mashable.  -via Gizmodo


The Secret Society of Lightning Strike Survivors

A person getting struck by lightning is a rare event. Surviving a lightning strike is even rarer. And the injuries caused by a lightning strike vary so much that doctors rarely know what to do. The effects can be immediate or delayed, present in different organs, and work against each other. Then there's psychological damage, as survivors deal with fear of the outdoors and a sense that no one understands what they are going through. Shana Williams Turner was struck by lightning in 2015. No one knew how to react, so her sister searched the internet for guidance. The results said to go to the hospital.

When lightning hits a person, it sends 300 million volts of electricity across the body in three milliseconds. The current flows externally, disrupting or short-circuiting the body’s electrical systems, such as the one that controls the heart. Cardiac arrest is the most common cause of death from a lightning strike. Brain damage from blunt-force trauma caused by the shock wave is also common. The jolt can severely burn skin, and in some cases it etches an intricate web of scars on the body that resembles the form of a lightning bolt itself, known as Lichtenberg figures, which fade within days for reasons unknown. Most people survive because the lightning hits the ground nearby or passes through a taller object such as a tree, or, in Shana’s case, the transformer.

Greg pulled up to the emergency room entrance and Shana stumbled out. She felt a rising panic, as if everything was caving in on her. A security guard, sensing that something was wrong, took her under his arm and dragged her into the emergency room. When doctors learned that Shana had just been struck by lightning, she was rushed onto a gurney and hooked up to an electrocardiogram. Nurses dashed around her in a blur, taking more vitals. Later, a doctor said that her blood pressure was abnormally high, but that there were no burns or obvious signs of injury. For that reason, no additional tests were ordered. Shana stayed overnight for surveillance, leaving the next day feeling as though she knew next to nothing about what had happened to her.  

The worst effects of the lightning strike took time to emerge, and were often discounted by doctors and insurance adjusters. Shana suffered psychologically, but was that from her injuries or from the fact that no one believed in them? She finally found validation in a nationwide support group for lightning strike survivors. Read her story at Narratively. -via Damn Interesting


Supermoon Supercut

How many times have you seen a big, beautiful supermoon in movies? In this compilation by Ariel Avissar, you can see them together, and it just proves how wonderful that big old moon is, anyway. The music is perfect, too. -via Laughing Squid


What’s Wrong With Your Cat?

(Image credit: yungkrueger)

I see cats on the internet every day, but this gallery of cats made me giggle until my eyes watered. They were gleaned from the reddit community titled WhatsWrongWithYourCat. The kicker is that there is nothing really "wrong" with any of these cats, it's just that cats can be so weird they will give that impression.

(Image credit: jasontaken)

So they're just cats being cats, but they're being funny, so you may as well go see the rest at Bored Panda.

Also see their previous post on the same subject.


Sourdough is More Than Bread in Alaska

Early settlers to the West, especially those headed to Alaska, relied on sourdough to keep them going. Other types of bread required eggs & milk, but sourdough only needed flour and feeding to keep it alive along with a little heat. And supposedly the Alaskan miners slept with their sourdough starters at night to keep them warm in the cold northern climate.

Being called a “sourdough” remains an honorific in Alaska. “The character-building experience of surviving Northern winters was a mark of pride among sourdoughs,” writes Susannah Dowds in Alaska Sourdough: Bread, Beards and Yeast

Read more at Atlas Obscura & NPR

Image Credit: University of Washington Digital Collection, Sourdough Hotel, Dexter, Alaska, ca. 1901. Photographer Hegg, Eric A., 1867-1948, Date circa 1901


Mesmerizing Anime Silhouette Girls

It's not just the drawings themselves which are amazing. Kotetsu knows exactly where to visually place each silhouette for maximum visual impact. His anime girls, which are meticulously rendered and cut out from cardstock, tell stories when he holds them up to the sky, water, flowers, trees, and shrines.

Continue reading


The Men Who Eat Like Boys

How do you define a “picky eater?” We all develop dietary habits in childhood that persist through our lives, and what’s “picky” depends on who is using the term. Many men who habitually eat the same processed foods they were fed in childhood don’t think of themselves as picky eaters until they have a girlfriend who is horrified by their diet.  

The proclivity to eat like a boy is only magnified when there’s a partner around to bear witness. For example, when Ally met her boyfriend Brad, he didn’t eat vegetables at all, only steak, pasta, burgers, nuggets and pizza bagels. “He’s 28 now, and he still eats like a 7-year-old,” Ally tells me. “He works at Family Guy, so he’s surrounded by other adult children and a kitchen fully stocked with gummy bears and Capri Sun. What adult man regularly drinks chocolate milk with his meals?”

Ally chalks it up to Brad’s mom babying him and bowing to his every dietary whim when he was a child. “She’d cook three different meals if he and his brothers demanded it,” she explains. “So Brad was an incredibly picky eater after 20-some-odd years of being nutritionally catered to by his (very lovely) mother.”

The reasons men fall into the nutritional abyss vary, but they mostly boil down to the fact that continuing on a pleasant path is much easier than changing it. Read what’s behind the diets of men who eat like boys at Mel magazine. -via Nag on the Lake

(Image credit: Fritz Saalfeld)


Betty, the Hobo Cat of Hoboken

One of the things we marvel about journalism of a century ago is how the smallest bit of news could be so newsworthy. Of course, today we have the internet for those small stories. The story of Betty was reprinted in newspapers across the country. She was a train station cat, kept to hunt mice at the Lackawanna Terminal at Hoboken, New Jersey. Betty led the usual life of a cat until January of 1933, when she boarded a train bound for Dover, leaving two kittens behind. Railroad employees up and down the line were alarmed when they realized what happened, and sprang into action to return Betty to her home station.

The press had a lot of fun with Betty’s story. One newspaper suggested the much-married cat galivanted off to Buffalo to visit a boyfriend, who had sent her a cat-o-gram. Thinking she was an employee of the railroad and thus entitled to ride the rails for free, she put on her fur coat and boarded the train.

Another newspaper said that perhaps Betty ran away because she had been wed too many times. She was tired of caring for kittens year after year, and was in search of an adventure all on her own.

Station-master Byrnes came up with his own reason for Betty’s antics. He surmised that the cat was upset that she didn’t get her usual turkey meal on Sunday morning, because the restaurant at the Lackawanna terminal was closed. She may have decided to jump on the train in search of an open eating establishment.

Whatever her motive was, that evening the one-time hobo cat received a turkey dinner fit for a railroad magnate.

Read what happened when Betty got the urge to travel at the Hatching Cat. -via Strange Company


The Cave of Swimmers

Hungarian explorer László Almásy explored the Sahara desert in Egypt and Libya, trying to find a legendary oasis called Zerzura. In 1933, he found a cave in Egypt's Gilf Kebir mountains that had paintings of people on the walls. The figures are estimated to be 8,000 years old. They appear to be swimming, but that was impossible in the Sahara Desert!

László Almásy, in his book The Unknown Sahara, postulates that the swimming scenes are real depictions of life at the time of painting, suggesting that there had been a climatic change from temperate to desert. At that time it was a radical new theory that sounded so dubious that his publisher felt compelled to add several footnotes in the book to make it clear that they did not share this opinion.

Since that time, scientists have uncovered more evidence that the Sahara was once rather humid, and had forests and lakes that would have been fine for swimming. The cave is now known as the Cave of Swimmers, which you can read about at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: Roland Unger)


Wolverine Spotted in Yellowstone National Park

Biologists at Yellowstone National Park set up camera traps to monitor cougars in 2014. You can imagine that these cameras saw a lot of different types of wildlife, but last month, a wolverine was seen running past the camera- the first time the park has captured one on video in more than a decade.

Wolverines are in many ways ghosts of the forests. They prefer cold climates, are solitary, and require large amounts of space to roam in search of prey. There as few as 300 left in the Lower 48, so the odds of seeing one are incredibly low.

Read more about the elusive wolverine at Earther.


Jesus in a Baby Walker

Contraptions that keep a baby from falling as he practices walking go way back. The picture above titled "The Holy Family at Work" portrays Jesus in a baby walker while his parents do their chores, painted around the year 1440. It doesn't look all that much different from baby walkers used today, which allow a child to roam upright. However, models from the 16th century are more constrained, and kept the baby to a track that only allowed a few steps- perhaps to keep them from walking into a hearth or staircase. See those baby walkers at Early Modern Medicine. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Clèves Master)


Chickens Wreak Havoc At A McDonald’s Parking Lot

Police in New Jersey quickly responded to a report about “a flock of chickens ‘wreaking havoc’” at their local McDonald’s. According to the Washington Township Police Department, when an animal control officer arrived at the scene, he found the chickens “'harassing' and 'chasing' customers and pecking at car tires.”

The animal control officer was able to capture the chickens with help from the manager of the McDonald's eatery, police said.
The chickens were taken to the Common Sense for Animals shelter, where they were later claimed by their owners.

Were they seeking revenge for their fallen comrades? We can only guess.

(Image Credit: Washington Township Police Department/ Facebook)


Rockin' Gayageum

The gayageum is a Korean zither. Luna Lee  (previously at Neatorama) is a master of the instrument, which you'll hear as she plays Chicago's classic hit "25 or 6 to 4." It really kicks in after about a minute. -via Laughing Squid

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