For more than two centuries, young Italian boys were castrated to preserve their pre-pubescent singing voices. They became hotly sought-after in church choirs and operas around Europe. This is the story of the castrato singers.
Until just recently, there lay, inside the Enjuin Temple in Asakuchi, Japan, one of the most intriguing mummies in the world. It was not of an ancient human or an animal, but of something in between, something which should ostensibly exist only in legend: a mermaid.
The Ancient Egyptians were the first to use perfumes, but it wasn’t until 1888 that the first commercial deodorant hit the shelves. For decades it was just a niche product until a genius ad campaign made it a necessity in the early 1920s. Now, it seems like we can’t go a day without wearing the stuff!
In the words of celebrated neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, the Euthanasia Coaster—essentially, a 2010 quasi-kinetic sculpture—is “not fun at all as art, and is preposterous as a technical device. But it does work as provocation, regardless of intent.” And the intent? A death-themed amusement park.
In 1932, tens of thousands of World War I veterans peacefully converged on Washington to demand cash bonuses they weren’t scheduled to receive for another 13 years. What they got instead was a violent clash with the US Army. This can happen here. It already did.
Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, the GI Bill of Rights was designed to provide federal benefits for returning World War II veterans. It gave them the opportunity to attend college and get low-interest loans to buy homes; it gave the country something more: hope and dreams of equality.
Once a waste product of the automobile industry, fordite—which is pretty much a fancy name for hardened car paint slag—is now a treasured material among jewelry makers and lapidary artists. It’s just too beautiful not to be.
If you’ve ever watched the movie Interstellar, that final scene, at Cooper Station, happens in an O’Neill cylinder. First envisioned by a Princeton professor and his undergraduate students in 1974, it was recently popularized as our preferred way to colonize space. Jeff Bezos fully endorses that statement.
In 1974, British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking predicted that, owing to quantum effects, black holes must constantly emit a small amount of radiation, which should eventually cause them to evaporate—entirely! It turns out he was right.
In Icelandic folklore, Jólakötturinn, or the Yule Cat, is a giant, monstrous cat said to prowl through the villages at Christmas, on the lookout for misbehaving children to eat for dinner—lest they have some new clothes!
For hundreds of years, just before they are visited by Santa, children in the Alpine regions of Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have to ride out the coming of his dark companion—a long-tongued goat-like demon from Hell known as Krampus.
The main difference between Santa Claus and La Befana—Italy’s two most beloved gift-givers—is that the latter one visits children on the night before Epiphany, rather than on Christmas Eve. She’s also, well, a witch.
What do you get when you cross Celtic Halloween traditions, French cream puffs, traditional carol singing, piñata-like sweets-filled barrels, and large, large amounts of food? The answer is three Icelandic holidays, celebrated in the days leading up to Lent: Bolludagur, Sprengidagur and Öskudagur.
Nowadays a popular Christmas ornament, the Yule Goat was once a Scandinavian version of Santa and, for centuries before that, he was a dying-and-rising deity bringing good luck and fertility to those who celebrated it. Join us as we try to trace back his origins—and resurrect his fascinating history!
Traditional nativity scenes show the Three Wise Men visiting the infant Jesus on the night of his birth in an animal-filled manger. Catalan nativity scenes are somewhat different: they also include a red-hatted farmer, squatting, with his pants around his knees and his bare buttocks exposed. Meet the Caganer, a saintly defecator!