• Keane "big eyes" painting returned 50 years after it was stolen from the waiting room of a dentist whose daughter is depicted in the artwork

    In 1972, someone swiped this gorgeous Margaret Keane painting from a dentist's office waiting room in Honolulu, Hawaii. Last week, it was finally returned to the dentist's family, including his daughter who at age 7 was the model for one of the big-eyed children in the painting. From Heritage Auctions:

    A native of Tennessee, Keane was living in Honolulu in 1972. There, she saw a little girl she wanted to include in a painting of several children. The girl's father provided Keane with a photo of his daughter (seen at left), who was then 7 years old. The girl appears in the center of the painting, which was intended to represent the racial diversity of Hawaii's population. It took Keane three months to complete.

    The girl's father purchased the work and displayed it in his dentist's office waiting room.

    According to family members and former employees interviewed by Wittman, the dentist and his employees went to lunch each day around noon, but left the door to the waiting room unlocked for patients who arrived early for their 1 p.m. appointments. When they returned from lunch on Nov. 14, 1972, they noticed the painting was gone. Honolulu police were contacted, a story appeared in the newspaper, and an ad ran for several days offering a reward for its return – "no questions asked."

    The family then spent the next five decades, on and off, looking for the work, with no luck. A fortuitous Google search earlier this year revealed that the painting had been sold through Heritage Auctions in December.

    In April the family contacted [art recovery expert Robert] Wittman, who began researching the theft and interviewing family members and former employees. He then contacted Heritage Auctions, which immediately contacted the seller and buyer of the painting; both were cooperative in facilitating the painting's return to its original owner. Heritage also refunded the buyer in full.

    Here's the trailer for Big Eyes, Tim Burton's excellent 2014 film about Margaret Keane:

  • Watch this sizzling trailer for Ridley Scott's House of Gucci

    Ridley Scott's hot fashion-crime-drama House of Gucci hits theaters November 24, starring Adam Driver and Lady Gaga. From Variety:

    The film... details the assassination of Maurizio Gucci (Driver) and the downfall of the Gucci family fashion dynasty. Gaga plays socialite Patrizia Reggiani, Maurizio's ex-wife who was tried and convicted of orchestrating his murder after he left her for a younger woman. She served 18 years in prison, where she gained the nickname Black Widow, before being released in 2016.

  • Gentleman in extreme wildfire danger zone didn't feel like mowing his lawn, so he torched it instead

    A gentleman near Langdale, British Columbia wasn't in the mood to mow the tall grass on his lawn so he torched it instead. Worth noting is that there is "extreme" danger of wildfires in the area and burn bans are in place. Firefighters extinguished the blaze. From CTV News:

    Mounties said the homeowner told them that instead of cutting the tall grass, he'd just decided to burn it[…]

    The homeowner was warned by police about the recklessness of his actions, the RCMP said. He was also fined $1,150 under the provincial Wildfire Act.

    image for illustration purposes: Fir0002 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

  • Mysterious jetpack man has returned to airspace above LAX

    Remember last year when pilots reported seeing someone flying with a jetpack above the Los Angeles International Airport and Torrance Municipal Airport? Apparently the mysterious jetpack man has returned to the area. On Wednesday evening, a Boeing 747 pilot radioed air traffic control of "a possible jetpack man in sight" 15 miles from LAX at 5,000 feet altitude. From the Los Angeles Times:

    At one point, an air traffic controller asked a pilot, "Did you see a UFO?"

    "We were looking but we did not see Iron Man," the pilot responded.

    The FBI will work with the FAA to investigate the jetpack report, FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller said in an email.

    Some suggest that the rocketeer is not actually a human wearing a jetpack but rather a drone carrying a mannequin as seen here.

  • Here is a brief history of toilets

    Who gives a crap about the history of toilets? Francis de los Reyes does. He's a professor of civil engineering at North Carolina State University whose research focuses on "wastewater treatment plant design, environmental biotechnology and microbiology, fundamentals of environmental engineering, and water and sanitation for developing countries."

    In this TED-Ed video, de los Reyes reveals how we've dealt with our own waste, from ancient Mesopotamia to Thomas Crapper to the present day.

  • Angel Olsen brings the mood for a cover of Men Without Hats' "Safety Dance"

    Earlier this month, indie chanteuse Angel Olsen teased her forthcoming EP of 1980s covers with her slow and dreamy take on Laura Branigan's "Gloria." Today, she brings the mood to Men Without Hats' "Safety Dance" (1980).

    The EP, titled Aisles, will be released August 20 and also includes covers of Billy Idol's "Eyes Without A Face," OMD's "If You Leave," and Alphaville's "Forever Young."

    And here's the original version of "Safety Dance":

    (Thanks Gil Kaufman!)

  • This YouTube video just hit one billion views

    Yesterday, a video on YouTube hit one billion views twelve years after it was posted. Watch the rather shocking news report above.

    And here's a link to the official upload of the video that hit one billion.

    To understand the clip's unique history, start with this oral history published last year in MEL Magazine. It takes us back to a time when the worst of the weaponized Internet memes were those created by advertising agencies.

  • There's now a miniature model of that naked man chasing the wild boar that snatched his laptop bag, and the photographer is displeased

    Remember last year's viral photo (seen below) of a nude man chasing a wild boar that had swiped a bag containing his laptop computer? Now, Busch model train company has turned the scene into a miniature plastic model set! Adele Landauer, the person who snapped the original photo, is not pleased. From The Guardian:

    Landauer told the tabloid Bild: "I had a huge amount of work due to that picture, but financially I got nothing from it. I don't like the fact that others are now earning money from it without asking me."

    A spokesperson for Busch, the company behind the action set, has said "sales are going well".

    At the time the picture went viral, Landauer said that the man in question had given his permission for her to post the image on social media. His identity has never been made public, so it is unclear what he makes of his latest depiction.

  • Woman sentenced for swapping $5.7 million in diamonds for a handful of pebbles at jewelry store

    A London judge sentenced Lulu Lakatos, 60, to 5 1/2 years in prison for stealing $5.7 million in diamonds from a fine jewelry store. Before the heist, her accomplices met with store staff to prepare them for a visit from someone they claimed is a very wealthy Russian. After that, Lakatos visited the shop to appraise diamonds in preparation for the non-existent buyer's visit. From Local21News:

    After she inspected the gems, which included a 20-carat heart-shaped diamond valued at more than 2.2 million pounds, they were individually wrapped and placed in a locked bag that was supposed to be held in the jeweler's vault until payment was received. But when Boodles' own expert became suspicious the next day, the bag was X-rayed and the store discovered nothing but seven ordinary pebbles.

    Security cam footage revealed that Lakatos had swapped the bags. After departing the shop, she was seen "ditching the long coat, hat and scarf she wore as a disguise" on her way to hop on a high-speed train to France.

    Inspector Clouseau was not available for comment.

  • Watch the epic battle between hundreds of monkeys that stopped traffic in Thailand

    A massive monkey brawl broke out on the streets of Lopburi, Thailand, stopping traffic on a major road. Thousands of monkeys live around the nearby Phra Kan Shrine and the occasional skirmish occurs but one onlooker said "he had never seen so many monkeys wrestling with each other before, which he likened to a gangster fight in a movie." Video below. From the Indian Express:

    "As a result of this incident, several monkeys were injured. There was blood on the road surface. And not until the leader of the losing side resigned himself, they did not retreat," the eye-witness added[…]

    However, this is not the first time it has happened. In 2020, two gangs of monkeys were embroiled in a fight in the same city and video started serious conversation about taking care of animals during the pandemic. Many had argued that tourism changed the behaviour of these monkeys as they now expect to receive food from humans.

  • Trailer park for swingers opening in Louisiana

    Tee Boi's Swinger Trailer Park will open next year in the southern Louisiana town of Mamou. The property's slogan: "Bring your house and share your spouse." Proprietor David Aucoin says the facility will have fantastic amenities like "a nude pool, a nude yoga stadium, a strip poker hall, and a key party cabana," reports KLFY.com:

    The sign for this swingers' community says you have to send a picture of your spouse for approval, but Aucoin says that's just a joke. 

    "That was more of a joke to kind of ease up the people and just to create a vibe. People went further with it than you can imagine. We've gotten many pictures and many phone calls and many texts, voicemails. It's unreal," he said[…]

    Aucoin also says you can choose to live at the trailer park, but he's designed it to operate more like a campground where swingers can come for "party-themed weekends."

    image: screenshot of KLFY video

  • Crocodile dragged vacationing teen into ocean. Fortunately, she escaped its clutches.

    Kiana Hummel was vacationing this month at a resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico when she approached the ocean for a midnight swim. She hadn't even reached the water yet when a crocodile crawled crawled onto the beach, grabbed her leg, and pulled her into the ocean. From ABC7News:

    Hummel said she remained calm even as she got dragged under the water. She continued to hit the crocodile as hard as she could until it finally let go of her right leg. She said she had almost escaped when the crocodile grabbed onto her left ankle and dragged her back under.

    Eventually, [bystander Sarah Laney and her friends who heard Hummel yell and ran to help were] able to get the crocodile to let go of Hummel and they were able to bring her to safety. Miraculously, she survived and didn't lose any limbs, although she does have extensive muscle and tissue damage all the way to the bones and is currently unable to walk[…]

    According to Laney, who stayed with Hummel after the attack, it took 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Once it did, Martinez said the hospital demanded she pay thousands of dollars before giving any treatment.

    In a statement to ABC7 News, Marriott spokesperson Kerstin Sachl confirmed the crocodile attack and said, "The safety and security of our guests and associates are our top priority, and we can confirm that appropriate signage, as well as night patrolling and red flags were and are properly in place."

    Below are the hotel's statement and Laney's Yelp review. One star!

    image: AngMoKio (CC BY-SA 2.5)

  • Restaurant now offers $200 french fries to accompany their $300 burger

    New York City's Serendipity 3 restaurant already sells a $300 burger. Want fries with that? Now you can finally have them, for $200 more. This month, Guinness World Records certified the Crème de la Crème Pomme Frites as the most expensive order of fries on the planet. From Reuters:

    The Crème de la Crème Pomme Frites start out as Chipperbec potatoes. They are blanched – or scalded – in vinegar and champagne. Then they fry in pure goose fat, not oil, and not once but twice, so they are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

    Sprinkled with edible gold and seasoned with truffle salt and truffle oil, they are served on a crystal plate with an orchid, thin-sliced truffles, and a Mornay cheese dip. The sauce, too, is infused with truffles, a rare seasonal mushroom.

    "Truffle is the main star here," said Corporate Executive Chef Frederick Schoen-Kiewert.

    No sense in skipping dessert after that, especially given the restaurant's legendary $1000 ice cream sundae.

  • Videogame company Bandai Namco made the sounds for Nissan's new cars

    Nissan commissioned sound designers at videogame/entertainment company Bandai Namco—creators of Pac-man and Tekken—to create new car sounds. From Nissan Stories:

    They were asked to help create a higher quality sound that uses pitch, tempo and tone to get information across. Ultimately, Nissan wanted the 'voice' of its vehicles to have more personality and character […]

    Once the tones were created in line with the brand's image, the next step was to create variations of the tones according to the urgency and seriousness of the information being conveyed to the driver. As Nissan's ergonomics test engineer Miwa Nakamura explains:

    "Research has shown that urgency depends on the frequency of the sound, and that severity depends on the frequency itself. In order to intuitively understand what types of sounds are used, each sound is divided into functional groups and differentiated by tone."

  • Watch this 1977 TV commercial for Star Wars focusing on siblings Luke and Leia's "forbidden love"

    From this 1977 TV commercial for Star Wars: "Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in danger. In love. In Star Wars. No legendary adventure of the past could be as exciting as this romance of the future."

    Here's Hammill's response from a few years ago when someone asked him about the revelation in Return of the Jedi that Luke and Leia are brother and sister, yet had smooched in the previous film The Empire Strikes Back:

  • Parkland shooting survivor: My QAnon dad is convinced that it was all a hoax

    On February 14, 2018, a gunman at Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 people and injured 17 more. Last week, one former Parkland student, using an anonymous account on Reddit, posted the following: "I survived the Stoneman Douglas school shooting and my dad is suddenly convinced I'm a liar and part of a false-flag operation…"

    He'll say stuff like this straight to my face whenever he's drinking: 'You're a real piece of work to be able to sit here and act like nothing ever happened if it wasn't a hoax. Shame on you for being part of it and putting your family through it too.'"

    Vice confirmed the 18-year-old's identity and interviewed him:

    "It started a couple months into the pandemic with the whole anti-lockdown protests," Bill [not his real name] said. "His feelings were so strong it turned into facts for him. So if he didn't like having to wear masks it wouldn't matter what doctors or scientists said. Anything that contradicted his feelings was wrong. So he turned to the internet to find like-minded people which led him to QAnon."

    But until January, that was as far as it went. Then Bill's father saw a video of Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene harassing Parkland survivor David Hogg in 2018, while he was visiting Washington to advocate for stricter gun control. Greene has repeatedly voiced support for QAnon and claimed the Parkland shooting was a hoax[…]

    At this point, Bill has little hope in ever seeing his father return to the person he was before he became obsessed with QAnon conspiracy theories, and even if he did, too much has happened to ever repair their relationship.

    "He'll never stop on his own, because there are always new theories and goalposts being moved," Bill said. "I don't know how to help someone that far gone. My guess is restricted access to the internet and lots of therapy. But even if there was hope he'd eventually snap out of it, it wouldn't change my mind on never wanting to see him again. So it doesn't really matter anymore."

    image: Lorie Shaull (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • "Disco felon": medical condition caused by too much finger snapping

    A "felon" is a an infection in the pad of the finger. In 1979, Johns Hopkins Hospital physician writing in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine reported on a specific kind of felon, "Disco Felon," apparently caused by snapping ones fingers too much to disco music. Later, a correspondent to the journal suggested a better name would be "disco digit." Weird Universe quotes the following from Science Year 1982:

     "A 17-year-old girl came to the emergency room complaining of an infected finger," they wrote. "Physical examination showed… a classic felon [a painful inflammation of the finger, usually near the fingernail] of the left middle finger… the patient had noticed a small crack on her finger… She thought that the crack might have resulted from snapping her fingers while she was disco dancing…"

    The doctors treated the girl by draining and bandaging the inflammation. She recovered, but Walker and his associates sounded a dire warning to other disco dancers and their doctors. "Disco dancing may eventually be shown to damage a variety of body systems: namely visual, auditory, orthopedic, and nutritional. [Nutritional] damage might result from self-imposed starvation in an attempt… to wear the latest outfits."

    Eventually, "Disco Felon" made way for "Space Invaders Wrist" and "Pac-Man Phalanx," reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and Arthritis Rheum, respectively.

    image: SidewaysSarah (CC BY 2.0)

  • For sale: Conventional large home with an 1800s western ghost town in the backyard

    This fairly conventional log home in Woodinville, Washington—just 30 minutes from Seattle—is for sale for $1.8 million. It's a three bedroom and four bath with a creek on the property and, um, an "authentic 1800s western town, originally the town of Silvana, which can be used for wine tasting, events, artist studio, work or play space."

    "The structures were moved from the original 'wild west' town of Silvana, WA," says Ryan Davis. "This is the original jail, grocery, saloon and barbershop of the town before being relocated to its current home in the 60s by the original owners, the Jones Family."

    Here's the listing.

    Images: KariHaas.com