This is What Freedom Looks Like

There are a lot of reasons wild animals are kept away from their natural habitat. Some undergo medical treatment for illness or injury. Some lived in inhumane institutions for breeding, entertainment, or labor purposes. Some are in abusive homes. Some were bred in captivity for the purpose of later being freed. Some were destined to be eaten. Some are in scientific studies, either long-term or just to be examined or tagged. And some were trapped by manmade structures they don't understand. The one thing all the animals in this compilation have in common was that they were eventually freed to return to the wild, and someone was there to record the moment. What do these animals feel at the moment? You can imagine joy or relief, or possibly they feel they are making their adrenaline-fueled great escape, and will process the experience later. Maybe they are surprised or even confused. For some, it may be a first time discovery of a strange new place where they sense they belong. We can't know, but we can be happy they are free. -via Nag on the Lake

5-25-77, A Project Long in the Making

What was notable about the date 5-25-77? Oh yeah, that was the day the original Star Wars was released! Of course, back then, movies didn't open in every theater nationwide at once, so many of us had to wait until later in the summer to see it. Patrick Read Johnson actually got to see some of it even earlier. As a 15-year-old aspiring filmmaker, he was treated to a trip to Industrial Light & Magic, among other places, courtesy of American Cinematographer magazine. While at ILM, effects artist John Dykstra screened some footage of the upcoming Star Wars for the magazine editor, and Johnson watched in fascination.

You may have heard about the movie called 5/25/77, which Johnson, now an experienced filmmaker, shot mostly in 2004. While the unfinished film has been shown in some theaters and notably at Star Wars Celebration IV in 2007, the project languished because of budget problems and because the Star Wars prequels turned off many of the franchise's original fans. But it is now finished, and is playing in a few select theaters, soon to be released digitally in November. Read the story that inspired the movie, and the story of the long process of getting it completed, at Mental Floss.

The Magician Who Was Shot on Stage

Chung Ling Soo was a magician at the turn of the 20th century who had all the skills and none of the authenticity. Billed as a Chinese magician, Chung Ling Soo's real name was William Ellsworth Robinson and he was a white American. Robinson has been performing magic tricks since he was a teenager, and had some success in vaudeville and tours, but a chance to go to Paris was too tempting. The ad was for a Chinese magician, so Robinson became Chinese. The name Chung Ling Soo was chosen because it resembled Ching Ling Foo, an accomplished magician from China who Robinson had encountered. Not only did Robinson almost copy his name, but also copied his act, including tricks Ching Ling Foo originated. The real Chinese magician was furious, and tried to call Robinson out, but audiences really didn't care as long as they were entertained. Robinson certainly put on a good show. His most spectacular trick was catching a bullet in his teeth. The bullet was marked by an audience member to show that it was the same one shot from a gun on stage. About that gun...

The gun was also specially built to have two chambers, one that was loaded and the empty chamber below, which was ignited.

What could possibly go wrong? Something finally went horribly wrong on March 23, 1918. When Robinson was shot during a show, he was so shocked that he spoke English in public for the first time in years. Read about the life and death of Chung Ling Soo at Amusing Planet. -via Strange Company

Batman: The Silent Motion Picture

Filmmaker Ben Crew re-edited TimBurton's 1989 Batman into a silent film! He refers to it as a "creative exercise," but he's also sharing it with the rest of us. The movie is shown in monochrome, although the single color changes with the scenes. Any necessary dialogue is shown in intertitle cards. That just illustrates how few lines are really needed, because we all know the story so well. It also highlights Burton's visual storytelling skills.   

Although this is a "silent film," because no actors talk, it is not at all silent. This version has plenty of music, both from the Batman soundtrack and vintage songs slipped into some surprising but appropriate places.

You can see Batman: The Silent Motion Picture in its two-hour entirety at at Archive, or select your favorite scenes in a collection of 60 clips at the movie's Twitter account. -via Metafilter

The Distorted Perceptions of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

In the first half of the 20th century, medical doctors and neurologists wrote up case histories of people who experienced mysterious hallucinations in which they felt their bodies were very small or very large, or as if a part of them was out of proportion. One patient felt she was low to the ground and her body became very wide. Another felt as if one ear had protruded out away from her head. One man felt his limbs were becoming unattached to his body. Several saw everything in their view becoming much bigger, implying they were shrinking. It might be a stretch to call these hallucinations; patients who looked in the mirror could see their bodies were normal, but they still has those feelings. These reports most often came from people who suffered hemicrania, or “one-sided headache,” which we now call migraines. They were also reported in patients who suffered from epilepsy or brain tumors.

American neurologist Caro Lippman couldn't help but think of how similar these symptoms were to the changes that Alice went through in Lewis Carroll's 1866 book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In 1955, the English psychiatrist John Todd dubbed the experience Alice in Wonderland syndrome. Lewis Carroll himself suffered from migraine headaches, so he might have been inspired by first-hand experience. Rather than hallucinations, these are distortions of body perception that might have an organic cause. However, there is some speculation that some conditions may be caused by Alice in Wonderland syndrome, such as anorexia nervosa. Read about this strange condition at MIT. -via Damn Interesting

Treatment for the Spanish Flu Could Be Worse Than the Disease

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed 25–50 million people worldwide, sickened at least ten times that many, and made everyone panic. Medical professionals couldn't even agree that it was a flu virus, but those who did know it was flu also knew the only treatment would be life support and symptom relief until the body could fight it off (or not). They didn't have great tools to do those things, anyway, but they did the best they knew with what they had. What they had was pretty horrifying.

Aspirin was a relatively new miracle drug, so patients were given possibly lethal doses for pain relief. Strychnine was also sometimes administered. A bit less lethal were the prescriptions for hot coffee with brandy. That doesn't sound so bad, but it was given as an enema that the patient had to hold for 20 minutes! But there was an even more effective drug for pain relief, suppressing a cough, and helping the patient to get sleep. That was heroin, the drug developed specifically to be less addictive than morphine, and it was prescribed like candy to Spanish flu patients. Read about the treatments that could have caused many of the deaths ascribed to the Spanish flu at Dirty, Sexy History. -via Strange Company

Brain Surgery for a Bear, and Other Animal Tales

Some people become famous within their own specialties by doing amazing things that the wider world knows nothing about. Dr. Romain Pizzi is a renowned wildlife veterinary surgeon. He's the expert they called to fly around the world to do brain surgery on a bear. That type of surgery had never been done on a bear before, and he'd be working in Laos, a country that doesn't even have an MRI. It takes infinite planning, confidence, and a skilled hand to even try such a thing. This video tells the story of the bear surgery, plus the time that Pizzi removed an eye from a seal and the time he did an appendectomy on an orangutan. Each surgery presents unique challenges that you wouldn't encounter with a human, but Pizzi works them out. Lucky for us, he also makes video recordings of his unusual operations for documentation and education. -via Digg

Woman Gives Away Coffin She Bought for Her Husband Because "He Has Lived Longer Than I Had Hoped"

Are you in the mood for a love story? Here's one from Easdale, Scotland, where a woman named Margaret Stables is offering to give away a coffin that she had originally purchased for her husband. The tabloid Daily Record reports that Stables posted the offer on Facebook Marketplace. She purchased the coffin in the hope of burying her husband in it, but he hasn't died yet and the coffin is taking up a lot of space in their house.

The coffin is free, but you have to come to the Stables' residence to pick it up. It doesn't come with the pillow, as their dog has taken a liking to it.

Valentine's Day is a few months away, but consider this opportunity to get the perfect gift for a romantic partner early.

-via Dave Barry | Photo: Margaret Stables

You'll Never Guess What the Inside of this Normal-Looking House Looks Like

🏠 The house on Coleman Way in Sacramento, California, looks just like any other regular ol' house on the block, but you'll never guess how it looks from the inside. Wow.

🎡 "If you're happy and you know it, overthink it." The Holderness Family sings the anthem of people who always overthink things. Here's The Over-Thinking Song.

🦿 Sure, you can still outrun the world's fastest bipedal robot right now, but you know how technology improves by leaps and bounds. By the time the Robocalypse happen, surely the bots can easily catch you when you try to run away.

😻 Hurricane Ian devastated parts of Florida yesterday, but there was one bright moment of kindness when a man spotted a cat trying to stay out of flooding waters and rescued it. Yay humans!

πŸ’€ What does an engineer do when he's in charge of decorating for Halloween? Wild Bill Knowles has the answer: make a diorama of skeletons roasting a Chevy S-10 pickup truck!

πŸ•ΈοΈ If that's too involved for you lazy Halloween decorators, try this one: how to make Easy Giant Halloween Spiderwebs (or simply don't clean for oh, a decade or two, and let natural spiderwebs accumulate instead).

πŸ•Ί Rebellious skateboarders will openly flaunt pandemic restrictions during the lockdown, but roller skaters are much more devious: they organize Secret Roller Discos where they gather every week to roller skate and hang out.

Want more neat stuff? Check out our new sites: Pop CulturistaPictojamHomes & HuesInfinite 1UPSupa Fluffy, Laughosaurus and Spooky Daily.

πŸ‘• Don't miss: Top 10 Horror T-Shirts Starring Iconic Horror Movie Villains over at The Shirt Stack and 10 Halloween T-Shirts That are Spooky and Fun

From the NeatoShop: Who You Gonna Kill by indie artist mommagorilla. More neat Horror T-Shirts.

Can You Argue With This List of the 35 Greatest Westerns?

I'm not sure what to make of a list of the best Western movies ever. If someone were to ask me what my favorite Western is, I'd probably say Blazing Saddles because I couldn't think of another. Also, if a movie had John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in it, it's hard to keep straight which one is which. For someone who has never been a fan of Westerns, I was surprised to realize how many of these 35 movies I've seen. That's purely because of the many years I've spent living with a man in possession of a remote control device, beginning with my father. I have to admit that some are pretty good, while there are quite a few I've not even heard of.

The list begins with the 1939 movie Stagecoach at #1. Don't let that throw you, because this is not a ranked list. The movies are presented in chronological order, with a trailer and description for each, at Mental Floss. Which movies have you seen that should have made the list and didn't? Blazing Saddles is not included.

The Most Complex Way to Make Pancakes Ever

When I think about making pancakes, I turn on the griddle and mix up some pancake batter. When The Brick Wall thinks about making pancakes, they draw up schematics for a series of LEGO machines that will do it for them. Watch this incredibly complicated homemade factory break eggs, then add flour, milk, and the other ingredients, mix it all together, lubricate the frying pan, pour batter, turn the pancake (yes, they are made one at a time), and transfer it to a plate. This has to be the most complicated method ever devised to make breakfast, but it's fascinating to watch. If I had been the one to build these machines, I would feel the need to open a diner to make the time and effort pay off. But LEGO bricks are toys, so the point of this whole project is to have fun doing it. -via Laughing Squid

Meet the Oyster King of New York

Before the 19th century, oysters were street food in New York City. There were also some oyster restaurants, but they were small, crowded basement diners. That changed in 1825 when Thomas Downing opened his Oyster House in the city's financial district. It was truly fine dining, offering only the freshest and best quality oysters. Downing was born to formerly-enslaved parents on Chincoteague Island off the coast of Virginia, where he grew up harvesting seafood like the rest of his family. His skills served him well in establishing the first fine dining experience in New York. The Oyster House served only white clientele, and was so luxurious that businessmen brought their wives and families to eat there, a practice that was fairly new to restaurants at the time. But Downing's patrons didn't know Downing all that well, and certainly didn't know about the people he was hiding in the restaurant's basement. Read about the life of the "Oyster King of New York" at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: John Lewis Krimmel)

The Largest Corn Maze in the World Celebrates the 60th Anniversary of James Bond

The name is Corn, James Corn.

The world's largest corn maze, located the Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove, Illinois, is celebrating the 60th anniversary of Agent 007 of Her Majesty's Secret Service, James Bond.

The maze displays the images of (almost) all James Bond actors - Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig - as well as other details from the movie, including the gun barrel, an Aston Martin DB5 car and the Casino de Monte-Carlo.

The "James Corn" (hah) maze was created by planting corn using GPS-equipped tractors, which automatically dropped seeds according to certain patterns. After the seed sprouted into corn plants, they get a maze with 10 miles of trail winding through 28 acres of live corn.

The James Bond corn maze is open to the public from September 10 to October 30, 2022. Besides getting lost in the maze, visitors can also participate in pumpkin picking, zip lines and other activities.

Image: Richardson Adventure Farm

Lizzo Plays Flutes from the Library of Congress

Before pop singer Lizzo played a concert in Washington, DC, last night, she was invited to the Library of Congress to check out the world’s largest flute collection. Lizzo, who is a classically trained flautist, was eager to see the collection. And Monday, she got the chance to play them, too!

One of the flutes was made for President James Madison by renowned clockmaker Claude Laurent, who made flutes as a hobby, and patented the crystal flute. The leaded crystal flute gifted to Madison for his second inauguration is one of the few items saved from an 1814 fire at the White House started by the British during the War of 1812. The rare instrument hasn't been played in 200 years.

The Library also arranged for Lizzo to play the flute at her concert Tuesday night, but only for a few notes, for security reasons. There are a lot of things to trip over on a concert stage, and you never know when someone is going to throw something onstage. Read how the visit came about and about the Library's flute holdings at the Library of Congress blog. -via Metafilter

The Pumpkin Spice Latte Engagement Ring

The trend of flavoring everything with pumpkin spice has led to jokes like the pumpkin spice oil change, but it still comes back around every fall with more real products marketed with the same idea. Now you can purchase fine gems in an engagement ring that proclaims to the world how much you love pumpkin spice!

Priced at £10,000, the Pumpkin Spice Latte Ring features a rose gold band, designed to replicate the shape of a pumpkin, with white diamonds, orange sapphires and emerald shoulder stones down either side of the ring.

The ring features a single whipped cream shaped centre diamond. This is surrounded by a cluster of white diamonds and orange sapphires set in a cup-shaped claw, reminiscent of a warm cup of pumpkin spice-goodness.

The ring, from Angelic Gems, is inscribed with "Pumpkin Spiced" inside. We can't get a really close look at the "whipped cream shaped centre diamond," but it could be a classic-cut diamond set upside down. The ring is priced at $11,300 in US dollars. While it may seem silly to purchase such an expensive and symbolic piece of jewelry with a seasonal food theme, is it any sillier than a superhero wedding band? However, you have to think ahead. How would you feel about wearing a Pumpkin Spice Latte engagement ring with a pink dress in the spring? Or with a red sweater at Christmas? Or what if, heaven forbid, you get tired of pumpkin spice altogether? -via Fark

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