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5

Why Switzerland Has No Capital City



Most folks (outside of Switzerland) say that Bern is the capital of Switzerland. But it's not, really, it's just the place where federal offices are, because they have to go somewhere. Switzerland actually has no capital city, and that's okay, as there's no global rule that nations must have one. This video is only five minutes long; the rest is an ad.  -via Laughing Squid


7

Danish Mink Rise from the Grave

Something is rotten in Denmark. Earlier this month, a mutated strain of coronavirus was detected in the mink population, Danish authorities decided to cull the nation's 15 million farmed mink, to avoid the mutant strain becoming established in humans, which might make a vaccine less effective. So far, 10 million mink have been slaughtered, killed in a hurry and buried in shallow pits. But they aren't staying buried.

“As the bodies decay, gases can be formed,” Thomas Kristensen, a national police spokesman, told the state broadcaster DR. “This causes the whole thing to expand a little. In this way, in the worst cases, the mink get pushed out of the ground.”

The sight of mink bodies re-emerging from the ground created concern, especially in areas where the burials are close to water supplies.

Somewhere, someone just got five in a row on their 2020 bingo card. Read more on the story at The Guardian. -via Boing Boing

(Image credit: Peter Trimming)


7

There Are 82 New Christmas Movies This Year

Made-for-TV Christmas movies have filled the schedule at the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime for a couple months now, but it's time for the premieres of the 2020 crop. Get ready for 82 new ways to wallow in Christmas and eat up the hours spent at home. Yes, they are formulaic, but 2020 is the year to indulge in safe guilty pleasures. 

You know that thing people say about Taco Bell? That the whole menu is just five ingredients (tortillas, cheese, meat, beans, sauce) remixed and rearranged in infinite combinations? Made-for-TV Christmas is the Taco Bell of entertainment genres. Take the same haggard tropes — the struggling inns, the small towns, the career women who must be cured of their unladylike ambitions by falling in love with boring men — and just switch the names and actors around, and it’s a tradition that works year after year.

The list of synopses (and trailers) at Vulture is divided into themes, since several movies share the same setup, plots, or attempts to stand out. There are three movies centered on blogging (as if that's interesting), nine with a land developer as the villain (because how else will you save the school/wilderness/historic landmark?), six with "scavenger hunt" as a plot device, and four (count 'em, FOUR) movies with LGBTQ themes. And a partridge in a pear tree somewhere, I'm sure. Happy wallowing!

(Image credit: zannaland)


7

When I was Young I Played Video Games



"Video Games" is a nostalgic and bittersweet song from the album Mixtape for the Milky Way by jeremy messersmith. The papercraft video was animated by fellow video game fan Eric Power.

Working on this video was a true joy. I've been playing video games since the mid 80's when I first got a hold of an Atari. Since then, they have been a part of many cherished memories with friends as well as solo adventures. When we were talking about the making of this video, I asked jeremy if we should make up our own games or straight up feature the ones we grew up with. We decided to just go for it and each made lists of some of our favorites. This proved to be a very difficult curation, as my intention was not just to show a random selection of games, but to also choose moments within those games that had a particular significance to us while also going hand in hand with the song. I hope you all enjoy!

-via Metafilter


8

New Chemistry and the Birth of Public Hygiene

In the late 1700s, a lack of effective sewers and waste control collided with the rise of industrial factories and their resulting emissions to cause a pollution crisis. The air in cities looked disgusting and smelled awful. At the time, it was thought that "miasma" spread diseases, so if you cleaned up the smell, the risk of illness would abate. There were also great strides in science during this period, but chemistry appeared to outstrip biology at a critical point.   

The decisive turning point in Europe emerged from the chemical studies of Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau. When Dijon’s local authorities implored him in 1773 to disinfect one of the vaults in the city’s cathedrals, Guyton tested out hydrochloric acid vapors. He reused this method a few months later in a prison.

These experiments were regarded as major victories against the hazards of infection and had an immense impact. For Alain Corbin, this disinfection constituted a decisive step in the cultural transformation of olfactory smells: Up to this point, the battle against miasma and pestilence was fought with vinegar-based and other aromatic compositions used against putrefaction; or fire to cleanse.

By the following year, the physician Félix Vicq-d’Azyr prescribed these kinds of fumigations to treat epizootic diseases in the south of France, while Étienne Mignot de Montigny and Philibert Trudaine de Montigny — both members of the French Academy — recommended similar practices to arrest the spread of contagious livestock diseases. In his two “Dissertations” on the waters of the Seine (1775 and 1787), Antoine Parmentier, scientific counsel to the lieutenant-general of police for Paris, asserted that acid and alkaline vapors contributed to clean air by neutralizing the miasmas dispersed in the atmosphere.

The rush was on to flood industrial plants with hydrochloric acid, chlorine, and caustic soda. And then to the hinterlands, where these chemicals could make swamps and garbage dumps smell better. What could possibly go wrong? Read about the era of better living through chemistry at the MIT Press Reader.  -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: D.O.Hill)


8

The Saga of Gerald, the Turkey From Hell

Who knows what goes on in the mind of a turkey that makes them turn violent? In the previous post When Turkeys Attack, we linked to a list of six notorious turkey incidents, but the story of Gerald the turkey terror of Oakland was not included. Gerald menaced visitors to a city park for the better part of a year!   

In the Before Times, Gerald was a beloved figure in the neighborhood. On weekday mornings, he would start his day by strutting across the Morcom Rose Garden to go and wait on the sidewalk with commuters in the sunlight. But late last year, per the news outlet Oaklandside, locals like Molly Flanagan, who were familiar and friendly with Gerald, noticed that the bird they knew was no longer acting like himself. “Flanagan said she first noticed the change when she was in the rose garden with a friend and Gerald wouldn’t leave them alone,” Oaklandside reported. “The bird ‘fixated’ on her friend, sending what Flanagan described as ‘a lot of energy’ their way.”

Another local, Alexis Morgan, recounted to Oaklandside a tale of Gerald relentlessly pursuing an older woman around the rose garden “until she was forced to climb a tree to escape.” Morgan acted to save the older woman, but Gerald had something for her, too, “landing a ‘kangaroo kick’ on her, leaving the imprint of a turkey foot on her thigh.”

Gerald continued his crimes, first because experts thought it was a phase, and then because local ordinances prevented officials from doing anything to him. He also gained a fan club, which meant Oakland residents who wanted to do something about him were at war with those who wanted to protect the bird. Find out what ultimately happened to Gerald at Mel magazine.


10

Glowing Jello and Other Visual Thanksgiving Recipes



If you're joining relatives by Zoom for Thanksgiving this year, you'll want to show off your cooking in the only way you can -by the way it looks. I was completely taken with this glowing dessert, and I'm sure your kinfolk would be too.

This isn’t a cheat, and it’s not an optical illusion — these are simply gin and tonic jellos made by adding gelatin to G&T and leaving them to set. So why are they glowing that fantastic ghostly color? The answer is that quinine (the bitter flavoring in tonic water) glows under UV fluorescent light. If you want to serve this to kids or teetotallers, it works just as well without the gin.

You'll find the recipe for Fluorescent Jello at The Splendid Table. And you'll find links to eight other recipes that will add visual flourish to your table, like cranberry lime pie, green deviled eggs, and ombré apple pie at Fast Company. -via Digg


8

Raising Cane

Although not native to the new World, sugarcane had a big hand in its history, from the slave trade to the rise in diabetes. It is grown mostly in Brazil and the Caribbean, but also in parts of America's Deep South, where sugar is a deeply-rooted part of the culture, despite the misery of the crop's development.

Sugarcane and its derivatives would become foundational for Southern culture. It’s in the pecan pie and the gâteau de sirop and the corn pone. Poured on biscuits. Some fools — what the hell are they thinking — even put sugar in their grits. Women are expected to be sweet. So is the tea. William Faulkner praised drinking whiskey “cold as molasses” in Light in August and dissolved a teaspoon of sugar in rainwater from a cistern for his own toddy. Otherwise, he wrote, it “lies in a little intact swirl like sand at the bottom of the glass.” A Southern-born conspiracy theorist named Robert Henry Winborne Welch, Jr. invented Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babies. (He also founded the John Birch Society.) Fullback Bobby Grier first broke the collegiate football color barrier during the Southeastern Conference’s Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 1956, when he took to the field for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers against Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets. Ella Fitzgerald sang “Sugar Blues” in 1939; Bob Wills of The Texas Playboys wrote “Sugar Moon” in 1947. Over three long days in 1969, the same year my great-aunt demanded filial kisses from me, The Rolling Stones holed up at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, in Sheffield, Alabama, where they recorded “Brown Sugar.” Those stark lyrics by Mick Jagger played on tight rotation last month as I snaked beside the Mississippi on River Road, heading west from New Orleans as the annual sugarcane harvest got underway.

In lovely prose, Shane Mitchell tells us about sugarcane: its history, how it's harvested and processed, the state of the industry, and its legacy at The Bitter Southerner. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Sheila1988)


9

Hunting Season at the Nursing Home

When pandemic restrictions limited visitors to the nursing home, the staff at Wikwemikong Nursing Home in Ontario went into high gear to relieve the boredom. Recreation manager Emily Barnes tells us about their recent deer hunt, in which workers became deer roaming through the trees.

Each week, Barnes and her team strives to have a full calendar of activities for residents, who are primarily First Nations from Manitoulin Island. This past week included a deer hunting activity after one of the residents said he was experiencing hunting fever. That meant setting up a mini-forest of Christmas trees, staff dressing up in deer costumes, and residents wielding nerf guns.

"He was saying how much he missed being an avid hunter every year, and this year was kind of hard because he felt like he was truly missing out on something important," said Barnes.

"It was so much fun. I'm sure a few might have enjoyed shooting me a little more than they should have. But, it was a really great time."

While it was all tongue-in-cheek, the hunt brought laughter and a bit of competitiveness to the residents. You can see more pictures here.  -via reddit

(Image credit: Wikwemikong Nursing Home at Facebook)


8

One Of America's Most Nightmarish Monsters Was A Nice Old Lady

Meet Georgia Tann. She was a social worker who arranged adoptions in Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. She was very successful in placing Memphis orphans with wealthy couples in California and elsewhere, where she could charge 100 times the previous going rate for her services. Tann grew rather rich and made friends among the powerful movers and shakers of Memphis, and so was a respected member of the city's elite. Meanwhile,

From 1924 all the way until 1950, terror stalked the streets of Memphis. Children vanished from porches and playgrounds. Babies were taken right from their cribs. Kids went to the hospital for a routine checkup and all that came back was a death certificate. The city had the highest infant mortality rate in the country, for no reason anyone seemed able to explain. In a horror movie, this would end with a band of plucky kids defeating a guy with a crow mask and a chainsaw for a hand. In reality, the mayhem was all the work of an eminently respectable society lady named Georgia Tann, who ran the Tennessee Children's Home Society.

Tann made a profit from most of the children in her care, but those who were judged less adoptable were neglected, mistreated, and abused. Many of them died. Read the story of Georgia Tann and her long reign of terror at Cracked.

(Image credit: The Commercial Appeal)


8

What Happened on 23rd Street



Fifty-four years before Marilyn Monroe starred in The Seven Year Itch, the same scene of a white dress being blown by an updraft from a sidewalk vent was shown to theater patrons. The 1901 movie was called What Happened on Twenty-third Street, New York City, and it was all of 77 seconds long. The film was presented as a slice of life, but it was scripted, and starred Florence Georgie and A.C. Abadie. The surviving film was in pretty bad condition. This copy has been restored and modernized by artificial intelligence.

1. Removed noise artifacts and stabilized original print.
2. Increased frame interpolation from 15 fps to 60 fps, using AI neural networks.
3. Increased to 4K resolution using AI upscaling.
4. Added color using Deoldify, a deep learning AI process.

Oh yeah, they added a bit of sound, too. The result is altogether charming. -via Nag on the Lake


9

Why the Myths of Plymouth Dominate the American Imagination

The most common story of the history of Thanksgiving is the one we learn as children, either at school or from our parents. It's the short, simplified version: the Pilgrims sailed to Massachusetts for religious freedom, learned to grow crops from their native friend Squanto, and in November had a feast of turkey to thank God for a bountiful harvest. None of that is exactly accurate, but the nuances of history take some time and study to understand. UCLA historian Carla Pestana goes over some of the myths surrounding Thanksgiving, like the complicated idea of religious freedom.

There's also a narrative about religious freedom and persecution that we owe to Bradford, who says that the English king James I had harassed this little church out of England and they had to flee to the Netherlands, and that that church then came to settle Plymouth. It’s very compelling, but when they got to the Netherlands, they actually had perfect religious freedom. They don’t need to leave the Netherlands for religious freedom, and Bradford says as much; the idea that they go to America for religious freedom is just off.

I do think that in Plymouth they tended to be somewhat more tolerant of alternate religious views. Decades later when the Harvard president openly explains that he's a Baptist and has to leave Massachusetts, he goes to Plymouth. The first Quaker in Massachusetts who gets converted goes to Plymouth. I actually think that's one reason why Plymouth wins in the sweepstakes for becoming the most important founding moment in the region. They don't kill witches like Salem. They don't kill Quakers like Boston. Some of the worst things that people in the late 18th century were starting to be embarrassed about, about their ancestors, didn't happen in Plymouth.

Read more of what really happened to bring about our Thanksgiving holiday at Smithsonian.


10

My Hunt for the Original McDonald’s French Fry Recipe

McDonald's is not exactly known for gourmet food, but most people will agree that their french fries are pretty good- for the five minutes it takes to eat them before they get cold. But they were once better. The McDonald brothers sold a thousand pounds of fries every day even before Ray Kroc turned their operation into a franchise. So what happened to the those extra-tasty McDonald's fries?

McDonald’s original french fries were cooked in beef tallow. For that fact, they were bullied out of production by a well-funded, well-intentioned businessman and self-proclaimed health advocate named Phil Sokolof, who unknowingly dethroned what many fans claim was the greatest french fry to ever meet mass production. “The french fries were very good,” [Julia] Child said in a 1995 interview, “and then the nutritionists got at them … and they’ve been limp ever since … I’m always very strong about criticizing them, hoping maybe they’ll change.”

Child never lived to see McDonald’s fries return to their former glory, and sadly, and there’s no indication they ever will. That’s why I set out on a quest to find the original recipe.

Luke Fater not only found what he believes to be the original recipe, he also cooked them to see if they were as good as he'd heard. See that and read the history of McDonald's french fries at Atlas Obscura.


10

Mandalorian "Jeans Guy" Goes Viral

This week's new episode of The Mandalorian has the internet all abuzz, not because of anything in the plot as much as for the picture above, cropped from a promotional image released by Disney. To the left you see a person wearing jeans and a t-shirt! Who knew jeans were canon in the Star Wars universe? From the A.V. Club's review (which contains spoilers):

The Mandalorian had its Starbucks cup moment this week, as a crew member in a T-shirt and jeans appears on the left-hand side of a shot during the battle aboard the Imperial base. The gaffe even made it to the official still above, which I downloaded before this becomes a thing and Disney pulls it. (You can also see it at around 18:53 in the episode.)

And to show you how on top of things Ochre Jelly is, he's already recreated Jeans Guy in LEGO. He sent this image of a new LEGO set, and I had no idea what he was referring to ...so I looked it up. See more artwork in tribute to Jeans Guy at the A.V. Club.


11

How a Thanksgiving Day Gag Ruffled Feathers in Mission Control

The early days of space flight were quite different. Rocket scientists would sometimes even pull practical jokes on their team, such as the time Gene Kranz convinced flight director Chris Kraft that an Atlas rocket had actually taken off during a flight simulation. But a 1991 incident put a stop to all that. One Thanksgiving morning, Lead Flight Director Milt Heflin was informed that a dormant Turkish satellite could possibly collide with the space shuttle in flight in 15 minutes.

There was no way for Heflin's engineers to calculate an avoidance maneuver, wake the crew, and communicate with them before the blackout period began. Heflin was livid—why had the Air Force not given more warning about a potential collision? Typically, they provided about 24 hours' notice. By God, if that satellite hit Atlantis, they could very well lose the astronauts as they slept. The crew of STS-44 might never awaken.

An experienced flight director who had started work at the space agency more than two decades earlier during the Apollo program, conducting oceanic recovery operations after the Moon landings, Heflin was largely unflappable. But now, he grew tense. "When I think about all of my time, I don't remember ever being so nervous or upset about something as I was then," he told Ars recently.

You can see the "Turkish satellite" in the picture above. But Heflin was too busy look at it, and the joke went so far as to stop all practical jokes at Mission Control forever. Read what happened at Ars Technica. -via Digg

(Image credit: Milt Heflin)


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