December 12, 2018

Mole People

Dark Days

Mole people (also known as ‘tunnel people’ or ‘tunnel dwellers’) are homeless people living under large cities in abandoned subway, railroad, flood, sewage tunnels, and heating shafts. The term may also refer to the speculative fiction trope of an entirely subterranean society.

While it is generally accepted that some homeless people in large cities make use of abandoned underground structures for shelter, urban legends persist that make stronger assertions. These include claims that ‘mole people’ have formed small, ordered societies similar to tribes, with members numbering up to the hundreds, living underground year-round. It has also been suggested that they have developed their own cultural traits and even have electricity by illegal hook-up. The subject has attracted some attention from sociologists but is highly controversial due to a lack of evidence. Continue reading

December 10, 2018

Belsnickel

Belsnickel is a crotchety, fur-clad Christmas gift-bringer figure in the folklore of the Palatinate region of southwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald area of Baden-Württemberg. The figure is also preserved in Pennsylvania Dutch communities.

Belsnickel is related to other companions of Saint Nicholas in the folklore of German-speaking Europe. He may have been based on another older German myth, ‘Knecht Ruprecht,’ a servant of Saint Nicholas, and a character from northern Germany. Unlike those figures, Belsnickel does not accompany Saint Nicholas but instead visits alone and combines both the threatening and the benign aspects which in other traditions are divided between the Saint Nicholas and the companion figure. Continue reading

December 5, 2018

Ricky Jay

card magic

Richard Jay Potash (1946 – 2018), known professionally as Ricky Jay, was an American stage magician, actor, bibliophile, and writer. In a profile for ‘The New Yorker,’ Mark Singer called Jay ‘perhaps the most gifted sleight of hand artist alive.’

In addition to sleight of hand, Jay was known for his card tricks, card throwing, memory feats, and stage patter. He also wrote extensively on magic and its history. His acting credits included the films ‘The Prestige,’ ‘The Spanish Prisoner,’ ‘Mystery Men,’ ‘Heist,’ ‘Boogie Nights,’ ‘Tomorrow Never Dies,’ ‘House of Games,’ and ‘Magnolia,’ and the HBO series ‘Deadwood.’ Continue reading

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November 10, 2018

Plogging

David_Sedaris

Plogging (Swedish: ‘plocka upp’) is a combination of jogging with picking up litter. It started as an organized activity in Sweden around 2016 and spread to other countries in 2018, following increased concern about plastic pollution. As a workout, it provides variation in body movements by adding bending, squatting and stretching to the main action of running.

Author David Sedaris combines litter picking with exercise in the Parham, Coldwaltham and Storrington districts of West Sussex, taking up to 60,000 steps a day in pursuit of local rubbish. He was so effective in keeping his neighborhood clean that the local authority named a waste vehicle in his honor.

November 7, 2018

Tube Man

Peter Minshall

tube man, also known as a ‘skydancer,’ ‘air dancer,’ and originally called the ‘Tall Boy,’ is an inflatable moving advertising product comprising a long fabric tube (with two or more outlets), which is attached to and powered by an electrical fan. As the electrical fan blows air through the fabric tube, this causes the tube to move about in a dynamic dancing or flailing motion.

The design of the tube man was invented by Peter Minshall, an artist from Trinidad and Tobago, along with a team that included Israeli artist Doron Gazit, for the 1996 Summer Olympics. Gazit eventually patented the concept of an inflatable, dancing human-shaped balloon and licensed the patent to various companies that manufacture and sell the devices.

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November 5, 2018

Dumb Starbucks

Nathan Fielder

Dumb Starbucks is the fifth episode of the second season of the American television docu-reality comedy series ‘Nathan for You,’ and the thirteenth overall episode of the series. Written by series co-creators Nathan Fielder and Michael Koman, as well as Dan Mintz, it first aired on Comedy Central in 2014.

In the series, Fielder plays an off-kilter version of himself, who tries to use his business background and experiences to help struggling companies and people, offering them strategies that no traditional business consultant would dare. Continue reading

October 29, 2018

Black Knight Satellite Conspiracy Theory

Space debris

The Black Knight satellite conspiracy theory claims that there is a spacecraft in near-polar orbit of the Earth that is of extraterrestrial origin, and that NASA is engaged in a cover-up regarding its existence and origin. This conspiracy theory combines several unrelated stories into one narrative.

A 1998 NASA photo is believed by some to show the Black Knight satellite, but NASA has stated that this is likely space debris, specifically a thermal blanket lost during an EVA mission. Continue reading

October 24, 2018

Jersey Shore Sound

Greetings from Asbury Park

The Stone Pony

The Jersey Shore sound is a genre of rock and roll popularized at New Jersey beach towns that evolved from the mixing of pre-Beatles rock and roll, rhythm and blues, doo-wop, and the urban culture of the Mid-Atlantic states, especially Pennsylvania (more specifically Philadelphia), Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and, of course, New Jersey.

The form has a strong Italian-American influence, in as much as many of the form’s key precursors and artists, from Frankie Valli through Bruce Springsteen, are of Italian ancestry and urban background.

Continue reading

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October 18, 2018

Waffle House Index

Waffle House

The Waffle House Index is an informal metric used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to determine the effect of a storm and the likely scale of assistance required for disaster recovery. The measure is based on the reputation of the restaurant chain Waffle House for staying open during extreme weather and for reopening quickly, albeit sometimes with a limited menu, after very severe weather events such as tornadoes or hurricanes.

The term was coined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in 2011, following the Joplin tornado, during which the two Waffle House restaurants in Joplin, Missouri, remained open. Continue reading

October 9, 2018

Auto-destructive Art

Balloon Girl

Auto-Destructive Art (ADA) is a form of art coined in 1959 by Gustav Metzger, an artist born in Bavaria that moved to Britain in 1939. Auto-Destructive Art was highly influenced by World War II. After the many casualties and mass destruction, people around the world were distraught and horrified. The extensive use of aircraft and the introduction of nuclear weapons greatly inspired artists to approach art using new means such as corrosion, stress, or heat.

ADA represents the war and its casualties. Artists in this time period wanted to explore issues in new ways. In order to explore these issues in the industrial society, Metzger encouraged artists to work with scientists and engineers.

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October 3, 2018

Florida Man

Florida Man is an Internet meme that typically consists of links to news stories and articles about unusual or strange crimes or events occurring in Florida, particularly those where the headline refers to the subject as ‘Florida Man,’ calling attention to Florida’s apparent notoriety for strange and unusual activity. It also implies that the consumer is to consider this ‘Florida Man’ to be an individual wreaking havoc rather than multiple people being referred to by the same title.

‘Miami New Times’ noted that freedom of information laws in Florida make it easier for journalists to obtain information about arrests from the police than in other states and that this is responsible for the large number of news articles. Continue reading

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September 25, 2018

Toga Party

Animal House

toga party is a type of costume party in which attendees are expected to wear a toga, a distinctive garment of Ancient Rome, normally made from a bed sheet, and sandals. Toga parties held by college or university students are associated with keg parties and excessive drinking.

The earliest known college toga parties took place in the early 1950s. Decades before such Greek-themed parties became known as ‘toga parties,’ similar parties, generally called ‘bed sheet and pillow slip’ parties (or simply, ‘pillow slip’ parties), in which attendees wrapped themselves in sheets and pillow cases, were regularly held by fraternal orders (like the Masons, Odd Fellows, and Elks), civic organizations, and church groups.

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