10 Weird And Wonderful British Festivals – Listverse


via 10 Weird And Wonderful British Festivals – Listverse

 

It’s not all tea, crumpets, and royal weddings in the United Kingdom. In fact, Britain is home to some downright bizarre and truly weird and wonderful festivals.

To some outsiders, the Brits may seem prim, proper, and a bit too serious at times. But a closer look will dispel that notion. From ancient pagan rites to modern-day oddities, this small island has the power to charm, amaze, and occasionally disgust. But it’s always entertaining.

10Summer Solstice At Stonehenge

Photo credit: TIME

Each year, thousands gather at the ancient stone monument in Wiltshire to mark the summer solstice. As the Sun rises, it aligns perfectly with the Heel Stone, the ancient stone entrance to the monument, and casts rays of light across the revelers gathered there.[1]

Stonehenge is considered to be a sacred site by Britain’s pagan and druid communities. Visitors are not normally permitted to approach and touch the stones, but an exception is made for the solstice celebrations. It is unknown how, when, or why this ancient monument was constructed. However, there are many theories, each more fantastic then the last.

9The Tar Barrels Of Ottery St. Mary

Photo credit: atlasobscura.com

Each November 5, the usually quiet streets of Ottery St. Mary in Devon are lit up by the flickering light of flaming tar barrels. Men and women charge through the crowded streets while carrying these fiery barrels overhead. Each weighs as much as 30 kilograms (66 lb). Wearing thick gloves to protect their hands, the barrel carriers must have grit and courage to endure the heat.[2]

Many generations of the same families appear as proud barrel rollers. However, the origins of the festival are unclear. Some believe that it has links to the famous gunpowder plot, while others think it is a pre-Christian pagan ritual intended to drive out evil spirits.

8Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival

Photo credit: lonelyplanet.com

The small town of Whittlesea in the east of England celebrates the harvestin a particularly unusual way. Known as the “straw bear,” a man covered from head to toe in straw is paraded through the streets. Accompanied by musicians and led by a “keeper” or “driver,” the bear dances in front of houses and inns for gifts of food, money, or beer.

The event briefly died out in 1909 when a local police inspector banned it as a form of begging. However, the custom was revived in 1980 by the Whittlesea Society and now takes place during the second weekend of January.[3]

7Egg Throwing World Championships

Photo credit: atlasobscura.com

Legend has it that the tradition of egg throwing in the English village of Swaton dates back to the 14th century. In an attempt to boost numbers at church, the abbot gave out free eggs to all who attended. In 1322, the river flooded and prevented locals from attending church. So monks threw eggs across the river, and the tradition was born.

The first Egg Throwing World Championship took place as a feature of the 2005 Swaton Vintage Day where the grand prize was scooped up by an “eggstatic” team from New Zealand. Teams of two compete for the prize by seeing who can pass the egg farthest without breaking it.

Additional events include the “Russian egg roulette” in which competitors take turns smashing eggs against their own heads. Of the six eggs available, five are hard-boiled and one is raw. The competitor who picks the raw egg loses and ends up with actual egg on his face.[4]

6Burning The Clocks

Photo credit: Carlos Felipe Pardo

The seaside town of Brighton marks the shortest day of the year with the “Burning the Clocks” festival. Thousands of individuals line the streets to watch a procession of people with homemade fire lanterns. After parading through the town, the people ceremoniously burn the lanterns on the town’s beach.[5]

The event organizers explain, “Burning the clocks is an antidote to the excesses of the commercial Christmas. People gather together to make paper and willow lanterns to carry through their city and burn on the beach as a token of the end of the year.”

5Abbots Bromley Horn Dance

Photo credit: robertharding.com

First performed in 1226, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is one of Britain’s oldest surviving traditions. Dancing through the town are six men dressed with reindeer antlers, two musicians, a man dressed as a woman, an archer, and a fool who hits anyone who comes too close with an inflated pig’s bladder.[6]

The reasons behind this strange event have been obscured by the mists of time. Some suggest that it was performed to mark the opening of the hunting season and to ensure a successful year. Others speculate that it is connected to ancient fertility rites. One thing is for sure: This ancient tradition is downright strange!

4Maldon Mud Race

Photo credit: Diane Roberts

The Maldon Mud Race is held each year on the River Blackwater in Essex. At low tide, competitors race across the incredibly muddy riverbed and back with their footwear taped on firmly to prevent any lost shoes.

The event originated in 1973 when the landlord of the Queens Head pub was dared to serve a meal on the riverbank dressed in a tuxedo. The following year, a bar was opened on the riverbank for the day. About 20 people competed to dash across the river, drink a pint of beer, and return. The Maldon Mud Race was born.[7]

3‘Obby ‘Oss

Photo credit: BBC

Perhaps the oldest dance festival in the UK, the ‘Obby ‘Oss is celebrated every May 1 in the Cornish fishing village of Padstow. Thought to be connected to the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane, the main event begins when two parades accompanying male dancers dressed as hobby horses (hence ‘obby ‘oss) swing through the town.

The ‘Obby ‘Oss consists of a large oval frame wrapped in a black oilskin with a strange horse’s mask and snapping jaw. The ‘Oss is accompanied by other dancers and musicians and led through the town by a teaser who prods the ‘Oss with a painted club.[8]

As he passes through the town, the ‘Oss will attempt to catch young maidens and drag them under his cloak. To be caught by the ‘Oss is considered good luck.

2World Toe Wrestling Championships

Photo credit: rove.me

Established in Staffordshire in 1976, the World Toe Wrestling Championship is now held annually in the Bentley Brook Inn. Much like arm wrestling but with feet, contestants link toes and attempt to pin the other’s foot for three seconds. You’ll be pleased to know that the feet of all competitors are thoroughly checked by a podiatrist before they can compete.[9]

1Haxey Hood

Photo credit: Richard Croft

First played in the 14th century, the Haxey Hood takes place on the 12th day of Christmas each year. Regulars from the town’s four pubs attempt to push the “hood” (a leather tube) to their pub, where it will remain until the following year.

Legend has it that in the 14th century, the wife of local landowner John de Mowbray was out riding when her hood was blown from her head. She was so amused by the efforts of the 13 farmhands who chased the hood across fields that she gifted the parish 13 acres of land on the condition that the chase be reenacted every year.

Said to be more about drinking than anything else, the game begins when the hood is thrown into the air and a large rugby-style scrum (known as the “sway”) converges on it.

There are no organized teams, and the only rules are that the hood cannot be thrown or run with. As many as 200 people can be playing at any point. The objective of the game is to move the hood to one of the local pubs. The game ends when the hood is touched by the pub’s landlord standing on his front step.[10]

Tony Robbins – 100 Million Meals


Sep 09, 2018  
Why Tony’s passion is feeding people in need
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Change a life… forever.

Feed a child, a family, and those that need it most. Join Tony’s 100 Million Meals Challenge – he will match your donation for 2X the impact.

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Did you know…


… that today is Computer End of File Day? In 1999, September 9 read as 9/9/99 (or 9999) to many computer programs. Since “99” is an error code for many computer software systems and “9999” an end of file code, it was feared that this date could trigger an end of input or end of file reading thus causing computers to close down programs. The date came and went without much fuss… in case you were wondering. 😉

~~~

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into committees. That’ll do them in.”

— Steve Wozniak

Did you know…


… that today is Computer End of File Day? In 1999, September 9 read as 9/9/99 (or 9999) to many computer programs. Since “99” is an error code for many computer software systems and “9999” an end of file code, it was feared that this date could trigger an end of input or end of file reading thus causing computers to close down programs. The date came and went without much fuss… in case you were wondering. 😉

~~~

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into committees. That’ll do them in.”

— Steve Wozniak

Sunday Riddles


I met a man with a load of wood which was neither straight nor crooked. What kind of wood was it?

The answer is: Sawdust.

I last forever and you might have too much or too little of me, either way you will run out of me eventually. What am I?

The answer is: Time.

Susan Sontag on Storytelling, What It Means to Be a Moral Human Being, and Her Advice to Writers – Brain Pickings


via Susan Sontag on Storytelling, What It Means to Be a Moral Human Being, and Her Advice to Writers – Brain Pickings

“Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.”

Susan Sontag (January 16, 1933–December 28, 2004) spent a lifetime contemplating the role of writing in both the inner world of the writer and outer universe of readers, which we call culture — from her prolific essays and talks on the task of literature to her devastatingly beautiful letter to Borges to her decades of reflections on writing recorded in her diaries. But nowhere did she address the singular purpose of storytelling and the social responsibility of the writer with more piercing precision than in one of her last public appearances — a tremendous lecture on South African Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer titled “At the Same Time: The Novelist and Moral Reasoning,” which Sontag delivered shortly before her death in 2004. The speech is included in and lends its title to the endlessly enriching posthumous anthology At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches (public library), which also gave us Sontag on beauty vs. interestingnesscourage and resistance, and literature and freedom.

Sontag begins with the quintessential question asked of, and answered by, all prominent writers — to distill their most essential advice on the craft:

I’m often asked if there is something I think writers ought to do, and recently in an interview I heard myself say: “Several things. Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.”

Needless to say, no sooner had these perky phrases fallen out of my mouth than I thought of some more recipes for writer’s virtue.

For instance: “Be serious.” By which I meant: Never be cynical. And which doesn’t preclude being funny.

What might Sontag say of the exponentially more exacting struggle against the cultural momentum of cynicism a mere decade later?

With the disclaimer that “descriptions mean nothing without examples,” Sontag points to Gordimer as the “living writer who exemplifies all that a writer can be” and considers what the South African author’s “large, ravishingly eloquent, and extremely varied body of work” reveals about the key to all great writing:

A great writer of fiction both creates — through acts of imagination, through language that feels inevitable, through vivid forms — a new world, a world that is unique, individual; and responds to a world, the world the writer shares with other people but is unknown or mis-known by still more people, confined in their worlds: call that history, society, what you will.

She cautions that despite all the noble uses of literature, despite all the ways in which it can transcend the written word to achieve a larger spiritual purpose — William Faulkner’s conviction that the writer’s duty is “to help man endure by lifting his heart” comes to mind — storytelling is still literature’s greatest duty:

The primary task of a writer is to write well. (And to go on writing well. Neither to burn out nor to sell out.) … Let the dedicated activist never overshadow the dedicated servant of literature — the matchless storyteller.

Echoing Walter Benjamin’s ideas on how storytelling transmutes information into wisdom — Sontag was a great admirer and rereader of his work — she adds:

To write is to know something. What a pleasure to read a writer who knows a great deal. (Not a common experience these days…) Literature, I would argue, is knowledge — albeit, even at its greatest, imperfect knowledge. Like all knowledge.

Still, even now, even now, literature remains one of our principal modes of understanding.

[…]

Everybody in our debauched culture invites us to simplify reality, to despise wisdom. There is a great deal of wisdom in Nadine Gordimer’s work. She has articulated an admirably complex view of the human heart and the contradictions inherent in living in literature and in history.

Nearly half a century after E.B. White proclaimed that the writer’s duty is “to lift people up, not lower them down,” Sontag considers “the idea of the responsibility of the writer to literature and to society” and clarifies the terms:

By literature, I mean literature in the normative sense, the sense in which literature incarnates and defends high standards. By society, I mean society in the normative sense, too — which suggests that a great writer of fiction, by writing truthfully about the society in which she or he lives, cannot help but evoke (if only by their absence) the better standards of justice and of truthfulness that we have the right (some would say the duty) to militate for in the necessarily imperfect societies in which we live.

Obviously, I think of the writer of novels and stories and plays as a moral agent… This doesn’t entail moralizing in any direct or crude sense. Serious fiction writers think about moral problems practically. They tell stories. They narrate. They evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own. They stimulate our imagination. The stories they tell enlarge and complicate — and, therefore, improve — our sympathies. They educate our capacity for moral judgment.

Illustration by Jim Stoten from ‘Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds.’ Click image for details.

In a sentiment that calls to mind French polymath Henri Poincaré’s assertion that creativity is the act of choosing the good ideas from among the bad ones, Sontag defines what a writer does and is:

Every writer of fiction wants to tell many stories, but we know that we can’t tell all the stories — certainly not simultaneously. We know we must pick one story, well, one central story; we have to be selective. The art of the writer is to find as much as one can in that story, in that sequence … in thattime (the timeline of the story), in that space (the concrete geography of the story).

[…]

A novelist, then, is someone who takes you on a journey. Through space. Through time. A novelist leads the reader over a gap, makes something go where it was not.

[…]

Time exists in order that everything doesn’t happen all at once … and space exists so that it doesn’t all happen to you.

[…]

The work of the novelist is to enliven time, as it is to animate space.

Repeating her memorable assertion that criticism is “cultural cholesterol,” penned in her diary decades earlier, Sontag considers the reactive indignation that passes for criticism:

Most notions about literature are reactive — in the hands of lesser talents, merely reactive.

[…]

The greatest offense now, in matters both of the arts and of culture generally, not to mention political life, is to seem to be upholding some better, more exigent standard, which is attacked, both from the left and the right, as either naïve or (a new banner for the philistines) “elitist.”

Writing nearly a decade before the golden age of ebooks and some years before the epidemic of crowdsourced-everything had infected nearly every corner of creative culture, Sontag once again reveals her extraordinary prescience about the intersection of technology, society, and the arts. (Some decades earlier, she had presaged the “aesthetic consumerism” of visual culture on the social web.) Turning a critical eye to the internet and its promise — rather, its threat — of crowdsourced storytelling, she writes:

Hypertext — or should I say the ideology of hypertext? — is ultrademocratic and so entirely in harmony with the demagogic appeals to cultural democracy that accompany (and distract one’s attention from) the ever-tightening grip of plutocratic capitalism.

[But the] proposal that the novel of the future will have no story or, instead, a story of the reader’s (rather, readers’) devising is so plainly unappealing and, should it come to pass, would inevitably bring about not the much-heralded death of the author but the extinction of the reader — all future readers of what is labeled as “literature.”

Illustration by Tom Seidmann-Freud, Sigmund Freud’s niece, from ‘David the Dreamer’ (1922). Click image for more.

Returning to the writer’s crucial task of selecting what story to tell from among all the stories that could be told, Sontag points to literature’s essential allure — the comfort of appeasing our anxiety about life’s infinite possibility, about all the roads not taken and all the immensities not imagined that could have led to a better destination than our present one. A story, instead, offers the comforting finitude of both time and possibility:

Every fictional plot contains hints and traces of the stories it has excluded or resisted in order to assume its present shape. Alternatives to the plot ought to be felt up to the last moment. These alternatives constitute the potential for disorder (and therefore of suspense) in the story’s unfolding.

[…]

Endings in a novel confer a kind of liberty that life stubbornly denies us: to come to a full stop that is not death and discover exactly where we are in relation to the events leading to a conclusion.

[…]

The pleasure of fiction is precisely that it moves to an ending. And an ending that satisfies is one that excludes. Whatever fails to connect with the story’s closing pattern of illumination the writer assumes can be safely left out of the account.

A novel is a world with borders. For there to be completeness, unity, coherence, there must be borders. Everything is relevant in the journey we take within those borders. One could describe the story’s end as a point of magical convergence for the shifting preparatory views: a fixed position from which the reader sees how initially disparate things finally belong together.

Once again echoing Walter Benjamin’s wise discrimination between storytelling and information, Sontag considers the two contrasting models “competing for our loyalty and attention”:

There is an essential … distinction between stories, on the one hand, which have, as their goal, an end, completeness, closure, and, on the other hand, information, which is always, by definition, partial, incomplete, fragmentary.

Illustration by Edward Gorey from ‘The Shrinking of Treehorn’ (1971). Click image for more.

For Sontag, these two modes of world-building are best exemplified by the dichotomy between literature and the commercial mass media. Writing in 2004, she saw television as the dominant form of the latter, but it’s striking to consider how true her observations hold today if we substitute “the internet” for every mention of “television.” One can only wonder what Sontag would make of our newsfeed-fetishism and our compulsive tendency to mistake the latest and most urgent for the most important. She writes:

Literature tells stories. Television gives information.

Literature involves. It is the re-creation of human solidarity. Television (with its illusion of immediacy) distances — immures us in our own indifference.

The so-called stories that we are told on television satisfy our appetite for anecdote and offer us mutually canceling models of understanding. (This is reinforced by the practice of punctuating television narratives with advertising.) They implicitly affirm the idea that all information is potentially relevant (or “interesting”), that all stories are endless — or if they do stop, it is not because they have come to an end but, rather, because they have been upstaged by a fresher or more lurid or eccentric story.

By presenting us with a limitless number of nonstopped stories, the narratives that the media relate — the consumption of which has so dramatically cut into the time the educated public once devoted to reading — offer a lesson in amorality and detachment that is antithetical to the one embodied by the enterprise of the novel.

Indeed, this notion of moral obligation is what Sontag sees as the crucial differentiator between storytelling and information — something I too have tussled with, a decade later, in contemplating the challenge of cultivating wisdom in the age of information, particularly in a media landscape driven by commercial interest whose very business model is predicated on conditioning us to confuse information with meaning. (Why think about what constitutes a great work of art — how it moves you, what it says to your soul — when you can skim the twenty most expensive paintings in history on a site like Buzzfeed?)

Sontag, who had admonished against reducing culture to “content” half a century before the term became the currency of said commercial media, writes:

In storytelling as practiced by the novelist, there is always … an ethical component. This ethical component is not the truth, as opposed to the falsity of the chronicle. It is the model of completeness, of felt intensity, of enlightenment supplied by the story, and its resolution — which is the opposite of the model of obtuseness, of non-understanding, of passive dismay, and the consequent numbing of feeling, offered by our media-disseminated glut of unending stories.

Television gives us, in an extremely debased and untruthful form, a truth that the novelist is obliged to suppress in the interest of the ethical model of understanding peculiar to the enterprise of fiction: namely, that the characteristic feature of our universe is that many things are happening at the same time. (“Time exists in order that it doesn’t happen all at once… space exists so that it doesn’t all happen to you.”)

Illustration by Dasha Tolstikova for ‘The Jacket’ by Kirsten Hall. Click image for more.

And therein lies Sontag’s greatest, most timeless, most urgently timely point — for writers, and for human beings:

To tell a story is to say: this is the important story. It is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path.

To be a moral human being is to pay, be obliged to pay, certain kinds of attention.

When we make moral judgments, we are not just saying that this is better than that. Even more fundamentally, we are saying that this is more important than that. It is to order the overwhelming spread and simultaneity of everything, at the price of ignoring or turning our backs on most of what is happening in the world.

The nature of moral judgments depends on our capacity for paying attention — a capacity that, inevitably, has its limits but whose limits can be stretched.

But perhaps the beginning of wisdom, and humility, is to acknowledge, and bow one’s head, before the thought, the devastating thought, of the simultaneity of everything, and the incapacity of our moral understanding — which is also the understanding of the novelist — to take this in.

At the Same Time is an indispensable read in its entirety — an eternally nourishing serving of wisdom from one of the most expansive and luminous minds humanity ever produced. Complement it with Sontag on lovearthow polarities imprison uswhy lists appeal to us, and the joy of rereading beloved books, then revisit this evolving archive of celebrated writers’ advice on writing.

10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (9/8/18) – Listverse


via 10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (9/8/18) – Listverse

Seven days have passed, and it is time, yet again, to look at some of the stranger stories that made headlines this week. You can catch up on more odd news by clicking here.

We have a multifarious collection of news items today. There’s pole dancing in China, a ghost ship in Myanmar, and a giant penis on an English hillside. We make an amazing discovery about sharks and explore some trouble aboard the ISS. We also take a look at two peculiar heists—one which just occurred and one that was solved after 13 years.

Featured image credit: NASA

10Astronaut Plugs Hole With Finger

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station faced potential peril last week when they discovered that a leak somewhere on the station was causing the air pressure to drop. Fortunately, the hole was small enough that one of the astronauts simply plugged it with his finger.

The leak was first detected by NASA ground crews while everyone aboard the ISS was sleeping. The next morning, the first order of business was finding the breach. They located the 2-millimeter-wide hole in the orbital section of Soyuz spacecraft MS-09.[1] It was initially believed to have been caused by a micrometeorite hitting the ISS with enough force to punch through the wall, but it was later found to have been drilled. Whether it was deliberate sabotage or human error is up for debate.

German astronaut Alexander Gerst stopped the air pressure from dropping by plugging the leak with his finger. Obviously, this was only a temporary measure while a more permanent solution was devised, not that the lasting resolution was significantly more high-tech. In the end, astronauts used epoxy and high-strength tape to seal the hole. So far, it is working, but they are still looking into something more reliable for the foreseeable future.

9LSD On Trial


The first ever LSD microdosing trials started this week to see what benefits, if any, this method of consumption has.

As its name suggests, microdosing involves taking very small doses of the drug, as little as one-fifteenth of a tab. It is said that this technique eliminates all hallucinogenic effects but helps with focus and depression. It has become a popular aid in the digital world of Silicon Valley. However, the method has never been tested scientifically, so all reports of benefits and side effects are anecdotal. On September 3, though, a placebo-controlled trial started at Imperial College London, sponsored by the Beckley Foundation, an organization founded to advance research into mind-altering substances.[2]

There’s just one problem—taking LSD is still illegal, no matter the dose. Therefore, researchers had to adopt a less conventional approach by inviting people who already microdose to join a “self-blinded study.” In other words, participants will be providing their own drugs which they will be inserting into some gel capsules while leaving others empty to serve as the control. Then they will take doses regularly without knowing if they are consuming LSD or a placebo.

Afterward, the test subjects will participate in online questionnaires and cognitive games to see what effects the drug has. The research team will know which capsules have LSD inside through QR codes and will tally the results after four weeks of testing.

8The Ghost Ship Of Yangon

Photo credit: Yangon Police/Facebook

A curious sight occurred in the city of Yangon in Myanmar last week when a giant “ghost ship” was found drifting near its shore. The mystery was put to rest on Saturday when the vessel was identified as the Sam Ratulangi PB 1600, an Indonesian freighter headed for Bangladesh.

There were no crew members or goods aboard the ship. Myanmar navy officials believed it had been towed after finding two cables at the head. An investigation eventually found an Indonesian tugboat called Independenceabout 80 kilometers (50 mi) away.

What started off as an intriguing, even spooky mystery had a mundane explanation. The tugboat had been towing the freighter since August 13. They were headed for a ship-breaking factory in Bangladesh, but bad weather caused a cable to break.[3] They then decided to simply abandon it.

7Going Up

Photo credit: CNET

We are getting one step closer to a space elevator this month, as Japanese scientists will test a miniature version as proof of concept.

Researchers from Shizuoka University are planning to send up an elevator stand-in box measuring 6 centimeters (2.4 in) long, 3 centimeters (1.2 in) wide, and 3 centimeters high. Unlike a regular space elevator, this one will be launched into space using a rocket. It will also be joined by two miniature satellites which will be connected together using a 10-meter-long (33 ft) steel cable.

The motorized box will travel between the two satellites on the cable, acting as a substitute for an elevator car. Its short journey will be recorded and transmitted back to Earth. The main goal here is to see how a container connected to a cable moves through space.[4] The mission is set to launch on September 11 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima.

There are many obstacles left before a real space elevator becomes a reality. However, the significant reduction in risks and costs is pushing development ever further. The university’s collaborator and adviser, Japanese construction giant Obayashi Corporation, is working on its own space elevator, which should be ready by 2050. Such a device is expected to reduce the costs of transporting cargo from $22,000 per kilogram via shuttle to just $200.

6Whiskey In The Jar

Photo credit: Metallica/Instagram

This autumn, whiskey enthusiasts will be able to enjoy a new spirit called “Blackened,” courtesy of heavy metal icons Metallica. The drink’s unique flavor has been “shaped” using a special “sonic enhancement” process called “Black Noise.” In other words, the whiskey has been blasted with Metallica songs during the distilling process.

The band’s heavy bass lines were played through a subwoofer next to the aging barrels. The powerful low-hertz sound waves are meant to disrupt the whiskey on a molecular level, leading to “increased wood interaction that kicks up the wood-flavor characteristics.”[5] Different playlists were created for each batch.

The whiskey was devised by members of the band in conjunction with master distiller Dave Pickerell. It is a blend of various bourbons, ryes, and other whiskeys, which are aged in black brandy barrels during their final stages. It will sell for around $50 a bottle.

5Pole Dancing For Kindergarteners

Photo credit: Sky News

The headmaster of a kindergarten in China landed in hot water after hiring a pole dancer to entertain pupils and parents during the welcome ceremony.[6]

The Xinshahui Kindergarten in Shenzen opened its doors on September 3 and invited families to attend the festivities. Part of the entertainment included multiple women performing in skimpy outfits and, among them, even a pole dancer. She grooved to “Buttons” by the Pussycat Dolls while swinging from a flagpole bearing the Chinese flag.

Footage of the performance made its way to Chinese social media platforms such as Sina Weibo, where parents expressed anger and incredulity at the school board for scheduling such an event. Several parents claimed to have withdrawn their children from the school.

The local Bao’an Education Bureau launched an investigation following numerous complaints and concluded that the actions were “not appropriate.” The headmaster has been dismissed and the school ordered to apologize. In a statement distributed to the parents, school officials claimed the goal was to “expose the children to a wider range of dances.”

4There’s No Place Like Home

Photo credit: NBC News

The FBI announced the recovery of a valuable piece of Hollywood memorabilia—a pair of ruby slippers worn by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. The shoes were stolen 13 years ago from the Judy Garland Museum in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.[7]

The owner of the ruby slippers, Michael Shaw, purchased them in 1970 for $2,000. The shoes were on loan to the museum at the time when they were stolen. The thief simply swiped the footwear, broke the glass of an emergency exit door, and made a run for it. So far, the FBI hasn’t provided details on how they identified the criminal and recovered the stolen memorabilia.

Even though there are three other pairs of ruby slippers in existence, they are still worth a lot of money. The last pair sold at a private auction went for $2 million. Shaw said the insurance company paid out $800,000 for the stolen shoes, so they own them now, although he has the right to buy them back.

3The Bicycle That Became A Penis

Photo credit: Cal J. Stephenson

The residents of Ilfracombe, Devon, woke up Tuesday morning to find that pranksters had turned the giant cardboard bicycle sitting on Capstone Hill into a giant cardboard penis.

The original artwork was created to celebrate stage two of the ongoing Tour of Britain.[8] Made from recycled materials, it was also meant to highlight the work of Plastic Free North Devon, an organization that makes efforts to keep the beaches clean and minimize the impact of single-use plastics.

During the night, cheeky rogues altered the cardboard creation into something more phallic. However, the original artists weren’t too bothered about it. In fact, project coordinator Seth Conway saw the funny side and was even glad for all the extra attention garnered by the stunt.

2The First Omnivorous Shark


The bonnethead has been identified as the first known species of shark that is an omnivore. According to US researchers, up to 60 percent of the animal’s diet is made up of seagrass.[9]

A common type of hammerhead shark, the bonnethead is found in many waters, including the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Western Atlantic. Up until this point, experts believed that the shark dined exclusively on crustaceans, mollusks, and bony fish. However, scientists at the University of California in Irvine and the Florida International University in Miami decided to study the bonnethead’s eating habits more closely after reports of the shark chomping on seagrass beds in the waters off the coast. It was believed that the eating of seagrass was incidental and provided no nutritional value.

To test this out, scientists grew their own seagrass in the lab. However, they added sodium bicarbonate powder made with a certain carbon isotope to give the plants a distinct chemical fingerprint. Afterward, they fed five bonnethead sharks on a diet of seagrass and squid.

After three weeks of testing, all the fish put on weight. Moreover, their stomachs were able to digest the plants. High levels of the isotope were found in the sharks’ blood and liver, showing that the bonnethead used seagrass to power and maintain its body.

1The Insect Heist Of The Century

One of the largest insect heists in history took place as thieves robbed the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion and made off with over 7,000 live spiders, scorpions, and other creepy-crawlies.

Eighty different species of arthropods were stolen. The criminals cleaned out over 80 percent of the museum’s collection. The heist occurred in late August, and it seemed to be an inside job. Security footage shows some of the employees carrying boxes of insects and arachnids out of the Insectarium over several days. When they were finished, the thieves left their blue uniforms stuck to a wall with knives.

Even though authorities know the identities of some of the robbers, no arrests have been made yet. They recovered about a dozen insects from the home of a suspect, but thousands of others remain unaccounted for.

The motive for the heist seems to be financial. The stolen critters are worth around $40,000.[10] According to Insectarium owner John Cambridge, they are easy to sell and are popular on the exotic pets market. This also means that the chances of retrieving the arthropods are very slim.

The Philadelphia Insectarium has only been opened for a year and now has had to close down its second and third floors while Cambridge attempts to rebuild his collection. However, since news of the theft spread, various institutions and private collectors have donated specimens to help out a fellow bug enthusiast.

10 Incredible Women Forgotten By History – Listverse


via 10 Incredible Women Forgotten By History – Listverse

10 Incredible Women Forgotten By History

EMILY WINCHESTER 

 

History is a fickle thing. Sometimes, the simplest events are immortalized while major events are forgotten. But the beauty of the Internet is that we can bring forgotten accomplishments out of the shadows and shine a light on them again.

The achievements of these women are something that should not go uncredited or unknown. These women were trailblazers, renegades, geniuses, and just plain awesome.

10Valentina Tereshkova

Photo credit: space.com

Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to venture into space in June 1963. Her training in parachuting made her an ideal candidate to become a Russian cosmonaut. She applied soon after women became eligible.

The USSR’s decision to put women into space was fueled by a desire to beat the USA to a “first” in the space race. Along with four other women, Tereshkova was put through the same rigorous training as her male counterparts. She spent a total of 70 hours and 50 minutes in space.[1]

When she returned home, she received some of the most prestigious awards offered by the Soviet Union. This included the Hero of the Soviet Union medal, the highest award in the USSR. The United States would not send a female astronaut into space until 20 years later.

9Margaret Hamilton

Photo credit: NASA

If not for Margaret Hamilton, the famous lines uttered by Neil Armstrong upon stepping onto the surface of the Moon would never have been said. She led the 400,000-strong team of software engineers that made Apollo 11 both possible and successful.

Hamilton had a rigorous approach to many tests. This attitude helped to preserve the mission when the guidance computer began to prioritize the Moon landing on its own. In 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the US, by President Barack Obama.[2]

8Caroline Herschel

Photo credit: Michael Hoskin

Caroline Herschel laid the groundwork for Western women in science. Having been given an education by her father, she was well ahead of her time. An accomplished astronomer, she was the first woman in recorded history to discover a comet—and found eight overall.

Her more famous brother, William Herschel, was given a job as King George III’s personal astronomer. She followed as his assistant. By also receiving wages, she was the first woman to be recognized for scientific work.

After her brother’s death, Caroline Herschel mapped out the exact placement of their discoveries. The Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Irish Academy made her the first female honorary member. Years later, she received the King of Prussia’s Gold Medal of Science.[3]

7Andree de Jongh

Photo via Wikimedia

Andree de Jongh was the head of a resistance group called the Comet Line. Her organization helped abandoned Allied soldiers escape Nazi-occupied countries and return to the safety of Allied lines. She also led many of these crusades from safe houses in Belgium through occupied France and finally to a neutral Spain.

De Jongh is estimated to have helped over 100 airmen to escape. She was eventually caught, and her father was executed. The disbelief that a person of her gender could lead this group kept her from torture and death. She was sent to prison, a women’s concentration camp, and a criminal labor camp.[4]

6Bertha von Suttner

Photo via Wikimedia

Bertha von Suttner was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She wrote Lay Down Your Arms (1889), one of the most influential books of the 1800s.

Von Suttner was a close friend of Alfred Nobel. They spoke for years on the subject of peace. She also became one of the leaders of the international peace movement and, in 1891, established the Austrian Peace Society. Von Suttner stood out as a radical and forceful leader among the group. She was referred to as the “generalissimo of the peace movement.”[5]

5Truus And Freddie Oversteegen

When Truus Oversteegen was 16 and her sister, Freddie, was just 14, a resistance fighter asked their mother if the girls could join the Dutch resistance against the Nazis. Their mother allowed it.

The girls would flirt with Nazi officers and collaborators. Then, these young women would lead the men to the woods under the pretense of intimacy. Unknown to the men, another resistance fighter was lying in wait. The officer would be shot and the murder covered up while the sisters acted as lookouts.[6]

4Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

Photo via Wikimedia

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was a nurse and surgeon during the Civil War as well as a women’s rights activist. When the Civil War started, she joined the Union effort as a nurse in DC and briefly as a surgeon in Ohio. For her work during the war, she was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

When her eligibility for the medal was called into question and her name taken off the list of awardees, she refused to give back the medal. The award was restored to her posthumously in 1977.

In the world of women’s rights, Walker chose to fight for female rights to a public professional role. She wore a Bloomer costume in protest of the unrealistic clothes required of working women. She also started to wear men’s clothes, which caused her to be arrested for impersonation several times.[7]

However, Walker never let critics get her down. She held her head high for her accomplishments in her work.

3Lyudmila Pavlichenko

Photo via Wikimedia

With a confirmed 309 kills, Lyudmila Pavlichenko still holds the record as the deadliest female sniper in the world. As a young woman, she competed with the neighborhood boys in marksmanship and later attended snipers’ school to perfect her shooting skills. Even so, she studied to be a teacher and scholar at Kiev University.

Her goals changed in 1941 when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Eager to fight for her country, she managed to prove herself and secure a place in the Red Army’s 25th Chapayev Rifle Division. Her first battle had her paralyzed with fear until a young soldier was shot right next to her. That propelled her to make the first of her many kills.

One hundred of her kills were German officers. She would spend days in sniper battles and was so well-known by the enemy that they would call for her by name on radio loudspeakers to try to bribe her.

After being promoted, she was pulled from combat and toured the world. Pavlichenko became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt and received gifts wherever she went. On her tours, Pavlichenko would push aside sexist questions and instead promote support for the second (Western) front. She retired with the rank of major and was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.[8]

2Hatshepsut

Photo credit: Postdlf

She was forgotten because her image was scrubbed from history by her own stepson.

Hatshepsut was the first women to attain the full powers of pharaoh. She began as a queen, the wife of her half-brother. When he died young, she assumed the role as regent until her infant stepson was of ruling age. She soon took full power, declaring herself a pharaoh.

She defended this move by reinventing how she was seen. Statues and paintings were commissioned that depicted her like a male pharaoh with a beard and muscles. Her achievements included construction of a temple at Deir el-Bahri, which is seen by many as the most beautiful temple in Egypt.

After she died and her stepson became ruler, he wiped her from history. Her images on temples and monuments were destroyed. The ancients believed that you would live eternally on the other side if you were remembered in life. But if you were forgotten, you ceased to be.

Accordingly, when the appropriate hieroglyphics were decoded in 1822, the revelations about Hatshepsut brought her back to her eternal life.[9]

1Zheng Shi

Photo via Wikimedia

Zheng Shi (aka Ching Shih) achieved something that few ever managed to do—she won over the long term as a pirate. She started as a prostitute captured by pirates, and she was claimed by the pirate fleet’s admiral as his wife. Zheng Shi agreed on the terms that she was granted copartnership of command and half the admiral’s share of the loot.

When her husband, Zheng Yi, died, she quickly took control of the fleet. She was a ruthless pirate lord. She instituted a strict set of rules. Most punishments for breaking the rules involved execution. Loot was to be recorded and properly distributed, female prisoners were to be treated with civility, and deserters would have their ears cut off.

With an iron grip on her fleet, Zheng Shi created an empire that was unrivaled in its power and success. When met by a government armada, she sank 63 of their ships and sent the rest home in retreat.

Her might humiliated the three naval world powers of Britain, China, and Portugal. In a desperate attempt to end the pirate lord’s reign, the emperor offered amnesty for Zheng Shi and her fleet. She agreed and got to keep her loot. Zheng Shi retired, opened a gambling house, and died peacefully at 69 years old.[10]

Divine spark of love 


Meher Baba’s Message :


The greatest need of humanity today is Love, Divine Love, Which is pure and selfless, which awakens man to the proper sense and understanding of his real duty in life, to find true happiness in giving, not receiving, in serving and not being served and in willingly participating in the suffering of others more than in their happiness. 


My Mission is to kindle that Divine Spark Of Love in all.

                                                                           —- M.S. Irani

                                                                      23rd November1941

The Wonders Of Silence, p14

By Dr. G.S.N. Moorty

Painting: Meher Baba with Larry Karrasch at Long Champs Restaurant 

Via Meher Baba Travels

Will of God


“Don’t worry. Whatever happens in the world happens according to the will of God. Even sins are committed because of God’s will !”


Baba had Aloba recite a couplet of Hafiz to the effect that:


Realizing that it is not in your hands to commit a sin, still,

Out of reverence for God, confess that you have done it !


Lord Meher Online 4466

Photo Courtesy : Meher Spiritual Center

A Brave and Startling Truth: Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Maya Angelou’s Stunning Humanist Poem That Flew to Space, Inspired by Carl Sagan – Brain Pickings


via A Brave and Startling Truth: Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Maya Angelou’s Stunning Humanist Poem That Flew to Space, Inspired by Carl Sagan – Brain Pickings

This is what’s happening in India – A WhatsApp Forward


Its not humour…Sir

When the ancient Chinese decided to live in peace, they made the Great Wall of China.
They thought no one could climb it due to its height.

During the first 100 years of its existence, the Chinese were invaded thrice. And every time, the hordes of enemy infantry had no need of penetrating or climbing over the Wall…
because each time they bribed the guards & came through the doors!

The Chinese built the Wall but forgot character building of the wall guards!Thus, the building of human character comes BEFORE building of anything else..

That’s what our students need today.

Like one Orientalist said: If you want to destroy de civilization of a nation there are 3 ways:

  1. Destroy the family structure.
  2. Destroy education.
  3. Lower their role models & references.
  4. In order to destroy the family:
    Undermine the role of Mother, so that she feels ashamed of being a housewife.
  5. To destroy education:
    You should give no importance to the Teacher, & lower his place in Society so that the students despise him.
  6. To lower the role models:
    You should undermine the Scholars, doubt them until no one listens to them or follows them.

For when a conscious Mother disappears, a dedicated Teacher disappears & there’s a downfall of role models, WHO will teach the VALUES to youngsters?

Give a thought: Is our country also invaded?
This is what is happening in India.

The Difficult Art of Giving Space in Love: Rilke on Freedom, Togetherness, and the Secret to a Good Marriage – Brain Pickings


via The Difficult Art of Giving Space in Love: Rilke on Freedom, Togetherness, and the Secret to a Good Marriage – Brain Pickings