Monday, March 28, 2011

I May Be a Little Hard to Reach for the Next Few Days

I'm busting my rump to finish a little project or two, so I may not be spending much time on the blog this week. (And it may take me longer to respond to any messages that are sent to me.) As always, this will only be temporary!

In the meantime, you might consider studying the hobo signs below. (More here.) Seems like the sort of thing that could come in handy someday.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rome's Magic Door

The Porta Alchemica can be found in the garden of a ruined villa on Rome's Esquilino hill. It was once one of five mysterious gates that were built around 1680 by a wealthy marquis who was friends with some of the biggest names in alchemy.

According to legend, the marquis once dined with an alchemist who claimed he had discovered an herb that would turn ordinary metals into gold. By the next morning, the man had disappeared. But he left behind a few gold flakes--and the recipe he had used to create them. Unfortunately, the marquis couldn't understand the strange document, so he had its contents inscribed on five doors around his villa in the hope that some passerby might be able to interpet the symbols.

Today, only one of the doors is still standing.

My Favorite Person This Week

Mark Landis is a painter who lives in Louisiana.
He drives a big, red Cadillac.
He is a master art forger.
But he never makes a dime off his crimes.
He loves nothing more than donating his forgeries to museums across America.
He often does so in honor of relatives who have never existed.

More here.

Yes, I know he's not the country's most upstanding citizen. But Mr. Landis, you are my favorite person of the week.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Huge, Habitable Cave Discovered on the Moon

I guess it's moon week.

Indian scientists say they have discovered an enormous cavern beneath the surface of the moon. Four hundred feet wide and one mile deep, the cave is attracting attention because its climate might allow human habitation. The temperature remains a constant (if chilly) -4 Celsius, and the cave's thick walls could protect space troglodytes from dangerous radiation.

That all sounds great. But doesn't anyone realize that the moon is already occupied?

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Need a Coat of Arms

You might be shocked to hear that the Miller family (at least my branch) does not have its own coat of arms. Crazy, right?

I never really felt the need to have one until I came across the image shown above. It's known as a biscione. As you can see, it's a serpent swallowing a man. And it has been on the Visconti family crest for about a thousand years. Pretty amazing. Forget all those white unicorns and lions rampant. I want a coat of arms that inspires some serious terror.

(The biscione also serves as the logo for a car company, a soccer club, an espresso manufacturer, and the city of Milan. I should really pay more attention.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Supermoon Tonight

Go outside after dark this evening. You might see something interesting. Even if you aren't spying on the neighbors. Tonight, the moon will appear bigger and closer than it has in almost twenty years. That's why they call it . . . prepare yourself for the mind-boggling creativity . . . a supermoon.


One more thing. Take your camera with you. Snap some photos. And please send me a better picture than the one shown above!

UPDATE: I received some fantastic supermoon photos from readers, and I will post them asap! SEE A FEW BELOW, COURTESY OF DSK AND ROBERT!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Zombie-Creating Fungi! Aaaahhhh!

(A note about the video above. It is narrated by my personal hero, Sir David Attenborough. He is, in my opinion, the greatest man alive. Unfortunately, the video begins with an ad. For food, of all things. Given the nature of the video, that's pretty hilarious. But sorry that you have to suffer through it.)

Okay, let's get to business . . .

There are now FOUR fungi that are known to turn insects into ZOMBIES. No, seriously. The fungi actually take control of the insects' brains. Then they direct their zombies to perform various tasks.

For instance, one fungus instructs zombie ants to climb a tree to a certain height. (Exactly 25 cm off the ground. The humidity must be 94-95% and the temperature 20-30°C.) There, the zombie must cling to the underside of a leaf by clamping on to the leaf's main vein. What happens next is the stuff of nightmares. The fungus begins to reproduce inside the ant's head.

I'm gonna stop there. But let's just say we have the makings of an awesome horror movie.

More here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another Installment of "I Want One of Those!"

I'm beginning to believe that I was horribly deprived as a child. Why didn't my parents hire Steve Kuhl to build a pirate ship bedroom for ME? I would have had such fun forcing my brother and sister to walk the plank.

Oh well. I guess I lost my chance to punish my siblings in true pirate style. But if I ever build my own house, it's definitely going to have one one of Mr. Kuhl's secret slides. (See the slide and more pirate ship photos here.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Frankenchicken freaks me out.

A Heart the Size of a Mini Cooper

The photo above shows a replica of a blue whale heart. It's so big that a human could slide through its arteries--and so loud that its beats can be heard over two miles away.

More here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Help Japan

I am absolutely heartbroken by the terrible tragedy that has taken place in Japan. Please talk to your friends and families and figure out what you can do. Remember: You're never too young to help!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This Prank May Not Be Perfect, But It's Pretty Darn Close

(Sorry for the brief ad at the beginning.)

Improv Everywhere strikes again. This time, the pranksters hired an actor who bears a strong resemblance to a seventeenth century Spanish king to stand in front of the ruler's portrait at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. He happily signed autographs, answered questions, and posed for photos.

It's an amazing prank, but it doesn't quite meet all three of my "perfect prank" criteria, since hiring an actor isn't free. (Last time I checked, anyway.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Itsy Bitsy Art

A while back, I posted about "Inner City Snail"--the creation of an artist known as Slinkachu. (And it's worth another look!) I also love his "Little People" art (shown above). Thanks for the link, BC!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Forty Elephants

(Above: You could fit a lot of swag under one of those dresses.)

For two hundred years, an all-female gang terrorized London. Known as the Forty Elephants, they were master shoplifters. While at work, each of the thieves wore a specially-tailored outfit that was riddled hidden pockets. Many made fortunes selling the goods that they pilfered. Those ill-gotten gains were then used to throw lavish parties and to fund the ladies' extravagant lifestyles. Off duty, they were known to dress in the very finest fashions. (Of course.)

Much more here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Plan the Perfect Prank

Here are the elements of a truly great prank:

1. It doesn't cost anything.
2. It will be remembered by its "victims" for the rest of their lives.
3. No one gets hurt--and you won't get arrested.

The prank perpetrated in the video above meets all these criteria. It takes place in a hotel hallway, but most settings would work just as well. The audio is in Spanish, but it won't make a difference to those of you who don't speak the language. I have checked to make sure that the language is clean. (Thanks, Esther!) So you'll have to learn your Spanish curses elsewhere.

The action starts around the 32 second mark, for those of you without much patience.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Yet Another Installment of "I Want One of Those!"

I don't care how impractical or expensive they might be. I want a BubbleTree tent. I would haul it out to the wilderness, and then lie back and marvel at the beauty of nature. I'd watch the flowers bloom, and I'd wave hello to all the creatures big and small that would wander past my walls.

Wait a second. What about bears? Are BubbleTents bear-proof? 'Cause if they're not, I'm going to look like a plastic-wrapped picnic lunch.

Oh well. It was a nice thought.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Science Uncovers the Secret to Making Wise Decisions

(Above: Imagine that.)

It's so much simpler than you ever imagined! Just chug a lot of water (or beverage of your choice).

Dutch scientists say they've proven that people with full bladders tend make wiser decisions. It seems controlling your urge to tinkle helps you control other urges as well. (Hmmm. I guess this makes sense. In my personal experience, desperately needing to locate a bathroom makes you care very little about anything else.)

Not willing to put yourself through that kind of torture? Apparently just THINKING about pee-related words can have the same effect! I expect all of you to try this at home.

More here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Counting Sheep in Times Square

Giant sheep (above) are now roaming Times Square thanks to artist Kyu Seok Oh and the Times Square Alliance. (You can check out other Times Square art installations here!)

Also, the New York Times Magazine has a wonderful article/slide-show that focuses on Parisian street artist JR. His enormous artworks (example below) are always stunning--and he often uses them to call attention to social problems, such as the plight of the poor. I think the woman lying on her side by the Seine (see the slide-show) may be one of my favorite artworks of all time. (He used the same image for an installation here in New York, but the setting wasn't as lovely.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Inventions: Old, New, and Evil!

A printer that prints human skin! For real!

A compact semi-submarine. Great for all sorts of perfectly legal activities!

A device that lets you control your iPad . . . with brainwaves! And it's totally safe! Mmmmhmmm.

Elephant poo gifts for your favorite friends and loved ones!

And a "scold's bridle" (shown above). State-of-the-art 16th century technology for dealing with quarrelsome women. (Boy, I would have been in BIG trouble back then.) Similar devices were used in parts of Europe until the 18th century.