Marketing has come a long way in the last two centuries, but it's hard to get people's attention these days. Sometimes, you've got to do something big and outrageous and potentially dangerous, and sometimes, those things don't always work out exactly the way you'd planned. Like employing a guerilla marketing firm to promote a cartoon movie and inadvertently causing a citywide panic (see previous post: "Innocent Ideas That Prompted Mass Hysteria.")
With that... READ ON
Ever since I can remember, I have been a confirmed gummy bear addict. I love gummy bears, particularly Haribo's Gold Bears and Happy Cola (it does make me happy), but I'll even deal in Trolli in a pinch. Of course, that the little, fruit-flavored gelatin bears are addictive shouldn't be surprising—after all, in 1997, tobacco exec James Morgan, head of Philip Morris Co., claimed that tobacco is no more addictive than gummy bears.
But what do we really know about these tasty... READ ON
A few weeks ago, my husband got us a digital cable box, despite the fact that we don't have a... READ ON
A few nights ago, I went to see Insane in the Brain, a stage production that bills itself as a "street dance" interpretation of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. No, really, I did.
At first blush, the premise sounds absolutely bizarre and not just because it takes its title from a Cypress Hill song. But the show itself was certainly fascinating: When it was good, it was very good—one patient's OCD tics become a choreography of their own, the scenes of... READ ON
Last Friday marked the end of an era—a very long era—with the final episode of the world's longest running soap opera and continuous story, Guiding Light. The CBS show closed after 72 years and 15,762 episodes, garnering 39 Daytime Emmys for the show itself and 30 more for the actors and actresses. Plus it launched the careers of the likes of Kevin Bacon, Calista Flockhart, Hayden Panettiere and James Earl... READ ON
The tragic tale of Marie Antoinette's death during the French Revolution is the stuff of legend. But while the story of Marie Antoinette ends with her death by beheading on October 16, 1793, the tragedy of her family continued to unfold long after her death.
Marie Antoinette and her husband, the Dauphin, were married for seven years before consummating their marriage "“ much to the chagrin of Marie's family, particularly her critical mother, the Empress Maria Teresa of the Holy Roman... READ ON
Chaos has descended this week on the tiny Pacific island of Samoa after government officials decided to force the entire nation to switch sides of the road on Monday. While Samoan officials insist there have been no accidents as a result of asking drivers to switch from driving on the right side of the road to driving on the left, many non-driving Samoans have been left stranded because the island's buses now open to the middle of the road.Samoa is the first nation since the 1970s to switch... READ ON
Part of the reason I moved to England was so I would be able to more easily travel to other parts of Europe and the world. This week, that dream was realized: I'm in Paris, just a hop, skip, and two-and-a-half hour train ride from my... READ ON
Many destinations are benefiting from their connection, however tenuous, to a popular work of literature.... READ ON
The story making the rounds these days is that swine flu parties "“ flu flings "“ are all the rage here in Merry Olde. Now, I've been to the odd garden party and birthday party, even a "fancy dress" party, but I have not yet been invited to a swine flu party (at least, not... READ ON
It was 70 years ago today that The Wizard of Oz premiered at The Strand Theatre in the little lakeside town of Oconomowoc, Wis. The film, based on the hugely popular children's series by L. Frank Baum, wasn't an overnight success and it wasn't even the most popular film that year "“ but now, where would Kansas be without Dorothy?
In tribute to the film that gave us "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Judy Garland, Toto (whose furry paw we should also shake for... READ ON
As Kara mentioned this morning, Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of the taking of the iconic photo that graced the cover of the Beatles' Abbey Road album and it was celebrated with all the crazed enthusiasm that a band that once claimed they were bigger than Jesus can still inspire.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to head down there for the mayhem "“ I was engaging in another British passion, "walking," and was out in the country on a 10-mile hike "“ but I have... READ ON
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, at least when it comes to the British monarchy: In addition to being the reigning queen of 16 Commonwealth realms and the Paramount Chief of Fiji, engaging in regular consultation with whichever Prime Minister is in power at the time, and dealing with the odd scandal stirred up by an errant royal relative, the Queen is also the owner and caretaker of Britain's swans. Even though she doesn't exactly have to take care of them herself "“... READ ON
Since I moved to London, I've gotten used to things being just a bit different: Sure, there's the whole accent thing and the driving on the other side of the road and the insertion of u's where they hadn't been before, but I mean the much more subtle differences "“ like Waldo.
With his trademark red-and-white striped shirt, his knit cap topped with a pom-pom, glasses and walking stick, Waldo has wended his way through virtually every country on every continent, through... READ ON
For four days this week, July 30 through August 2, Dallas is playing host to the most rabid fan base outside Red Sox Nation. Thousands of fans of The Twilight Saga will be flying into town for what organizers are billing as the largest Twilight conference in the US, TwiCon 2009.
There is virtually no one on the planet who hasn't heard of the Twilight saga "“ a series of four books, Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, about a human girl and the complications arising from her... READ ON
Big news! On Monday, England defeated Australia on the famous cricket pitch at Lord's for the first time in 75 years! To put this in perspective, this may actually be bigger than the miraculous Red Sox World Series win in 2004, heralding an end to the 86-year Curse of the Bambino. Maybe.
Anyway, England's win put me in mind of doing a post on cricket, because it is so quintessentially British.
I have actually seen professional cricket: This Memorial Day, whilst my American compatriots... READ ON
This Thursday, Covent Garden "“ typically home to flocks of tourists, living statues, and souvenir tchotchke shops "“ had a new visitor, one who didn't stick around all that long after being hacked to sweet pieces by two knife-wielding public relations girls.Â The World's Largest Cupcake, as the impressive confection was billed, measured around 4 feet by 6 and a half feet and weighed in at more than 330 pounds, was covered in chewy white and pink fondant, studded with Smarties,... READ ON
If you've ever read anything by P.G. Wodehouse or Evelyn Waugh; if you've ever found yourself saying "“ even just in your head or under your breath "“ "Good show!" "Steady on!" or "Jolly good!"; if you've ever sipped a Martini and contemplated your life as the idle rich; if you've ever longed for a simpler time when men were gentlemen and women were ladies; well, you might be a... READ ON
Living statues "“ those people who dress in bizarre costumes, frequently involving head to toe metallic paint, and plant themselves in well-traveled thoroughfares "“ are already a staple of London's urban landscape. Some are pretty cool, others simply annoying and... READ ON
A few days ago, I was in the grocery store when I came across a board game promising endless hours of family fun called "Cluedo." To my surprise, the game parked at the endcap was the British version of Clue. You might remember Clue as the game that made murder an innocent pastime (not unlike Risk did with Napoleonic world domination and unabashed despotism), that gave rise to phrases like "in drawing room with the rope," and that spawned one of the Greatest Movies of All Time.Â ... READ ON
Tuesday night, in a scene that could not have been more dramatic had it been scripted, Rail Maritime and Transport union boss Bob Crow walked out of talks with Transport for London and city officials. As he marched out the door he said over his shoulder, "We've got a strike to run."
The Rail Maritime and Transport union is one of several unions representing Underground workers. Without the workers that depend on London's transportation system, the city can be expected to become a... READ ON
Gone are the days of Guinness is Good For You; welcome to the socially responsible recession era world of O'Doul's. In a market trend that almost defies logic, beer sales in the UK have been on the decline for the past few years "“ while sales of non-alcoholic beer have steadily increased.
Though Britain still reigns among the booziest of the Western European countries, sales of beer in off licenses (convenience stores, basically) and supermarkets has declined 11 percent in the first... READ ON
Yes, Wallace & Gromit fans, there is such a thing as Stinking Bishop. And this week, it was officially named Britain's Smelliest Cheese by the judging panel at the Smelliest Cheese Championships held at The Royal Bath and West Show in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. According to the panel, the cheese smells like a rugby locker room; no word on the taste.
The cheese comes by its name, incidentally, not necessarily because of its own natural odor, but by way of the pear variety that is an integral part... READ ON
It's official "“ at 4,032 pages, all resting on a spine over a foot thick, the world's thickest book is The Complete Miss Marple. The massive volume, a collection of the 12 novels and 20 short stories by Agatha Christie featuring the guileless spinster detective, was revealed to the public at a press event at Foyle's Charing Cross Road bookshop in London on Wednesday, May 20.
Taking part in the event was Christie's grandson and inheritor of her estate, Matthew Prichard,... READ ON
It's an ancient north Indian fighting style that nearly died out in the 19th century, after the British Raj outlawed it and other indigenous martial arts. And right now, in a high school gym in England's Black Country, one man, clad in blue robes and trainers, is trying to bring shastar vidiya back from the near dead.
Nidar Singh Nihang, the Wolverhampton factory worker whose made it his life's work to breathe life into the dying art, learned the physical technique from an ancient... READ ON
It's practically a fact of life here in England, like rain half the summer, painfully congested Tube traffic, and conversations about the weather: The English hate the French.
They've written songs about this centuries-long enmity "“ like Rowan Atkinson's 1980 Live in Belfast comedy show, which included a performance of the plainly titled "I Hate the French," they've dedicated articles and blogs to the topic, and they've even published books on the subject.... READ ON
It was 50 years ago this week that the Mini "“ symbol of all that is British, mod, and cool "“ first rolled off the line. And from The Italian Job to, well, The Italian Job, the Mini has remained a tiny, economical and very stylish way to get from point A to point B. But how did the Mini become the Mini? Here's a brief history of the car that proved that less truly is more.
In the beginning"¦
The Mini was the British Motor Corporation's answer to the "bubble car,"... READ ON
Yesterday, UK Home Secretary Jaqcui Smith released the names of 16 people who are banned from entering Britain on the grounds that they foster or promote hate and extremism. Among those appearing on the "named and shamed" list is super right-wing American talk-show host Michael Savage, who once branded the Quran "a book of hate" and claimed that most children with autism are "a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out." Also on the list is Fred Phelps, Baptist... READ ON
The Nazis had a number of nefarious plots for world domination and genocide, from occultism to the infamous Sun Cannon (a giant reflector that was designed to melt enemies in midair using the power of the sun) to animal husbandry.
That's right. Animal husbandry. And now, 70 years after the fall of the Nazi regime, there are Aryan cows roaming the bucolic English countryside.
It was the dream of two German zoologists, brothers who wanted to bring back to life the mythic wild auroch, a great... READ ON
On Monday, buildings throughout Manhattan's financial district were evacuated, emergency responders were inundated with panicked phone calls, and one pregnant woman had to go to the hospital after a Boeing 747 apparently chased by a F-16 jet flew less than 1500 feet above the city's sky-line.
Federal... READ ON
As panic mounts over the increasing number of swine flu cases, it looks like the world is ending, with a sniffle and sneeze. But this certainly isn't the first time humanity has had to gird itself against the threat of pandemic and, luckily for all of us, lived to tell about it. Here's a little background on four 20th century outbreaks.
1. The Spanish Flu of 1918: Don't Blame the... READ ON
At this point in the news cycle, it may be prudent to define "flu epidemic" and its far scarier sibling, "flu pandemic." "Epidemic" means simply that a sudden outbreak of the virus is spreading rapidly and affecting many people at the same time. In the UK, the National Health Services define it as when more than 400 people per 100,000 consult their doctor or go to the hospital with the flu or flu-like symptoms each week. In the US, a "flu epidemic" is defined... READ ON
After living in Boston for six years, I'm a bit of a marathon snob. Not that I've ever actually done one myself, it's just that getting (or taking) a Monday off to watch and celebrate the world's most respected road race has left a mark. So when I found out that the London Marathon "“ which has only been around since 1981 "“ was on for this weekend, internally, I sort of said, "Meh."
But the London Marathon, sponsored by Flora, a British margarine... READ ON
It's Friday night and you're a British female between the ages of 14 and 75 "“ what are you going to do? As likely as not, you're going out to get... READ ON
My last post highlighted seven museums dedicated to preserving some very specific aspects of British culture, like lawnmowers, Victorian toys, and witchcraft. But there are oh so many more and here are a few:1. The Teddy Bear Museum, Dorchester,... READ ON
Last week, The Independent ran a cheeky photo series on things that make Britain great "“ like blankets, Wimpy Burgers, and pigeons. The series, which was primarily lifted from a forthcoming book called We're British, Innit by Iain Aitch, did not mention Marmite, which seems a shame, because it is so singularly British, not to mention brown. But the book did mention corner shops, which also seems a shame, because where in the world aren't there corner shops? In any case, the exercise in... READ ON
Full frontal nudity on public television "“ before 9... READ ON
Since the time of our founding fathers (you know, the ones with the tea in the harbor and the complaints about that whole taxation without representation thing?) there have been more than a few Americans who took a stand against the man and said read my lips, no more taxes. Some have good reasons "“ after all, Mahatma Gandhi advocated tax protestation as a quick and nonviolent way to bring down a government "“ and some have really dumb reasons. So, in the spirit of tax season, here are a few of... READ ON
Linda Rodriguez recently moved to England, and she posts about happenings in her new country a few times each week. Her column needs a name. "A Broad Abroad" sounds demeaning and Sarah Lyall just published a book called "The Anglo Files." Got any other ideas? If Linda picks yours, you win a mental_floss t-shirt. So get... READ ON
The news media both here in London and in the States made much of the encounter between Michelle Obama and the Queen, during which the Queen put a tentative hand at Michelle's back and Michelle responded by putting her arm around the diminutive Queen.
The interchange lasted all of 10 seconds, but The Hug that Was Heard "˜Round the World was enough to keep news outlets in stories and op-eds for days. And for good reason: Physical displays of emotion, of whatever variety, have long been... READ ON
On some level, it makes sense: Clothing made out of fabric is expensive. Clothing made out of paper is cheap and, after you're tired of wearing it, you can just throw is away. Genius, right?
At several points during the 20th century, fashion designers thought so too. In 1920, importers of German goods reportedly came to London, via Holland, to hawk their new line of paper suits to English clothiers. The "ready-made" suits, which could be cut to English styles, were to be sold for... READ ON
Linda Rodriguez is reporting from London with more on the G20 and how it's progressing both inside and out. We'll let her take it from here.Â
So, What's going on... READ ON
No fewer than three different news reports concerned farm animals giving their owners the slip this past weekend:
1. Slaughterhouse Cow Makes a Dash for... READ ON
This week's G20 summit meeting has put London on alert. City workers have been told to stay home or dress more casually to avoid being targeted by protestors, while police prepare for the thousands of G20 demonstrators expected to flood London's Canary Wharf. If you're seeing shades of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, where days of rioting resulted in more than 500 arrests and $2.5 million in damages to the city, so are the cops.
What Exactly is the G20?
The... READ ON
Sporting toxic saliva and shark-like razor sharp teeth, the Komodo dragon is one fierce predator. But they rarely attack humans. Which is why the recent fatal Komodo dragon attack on a fruit picker is big news. It's also why we've decided to cover a few other attacks by rare animals. Or rare attacks involving animals. Or just weird encounters with animals.
1. Paris Hilton... READ ON
Today's insomnia cures are slightly more scientific than the back in the day. But they're also less interesting, which is why we've rounded up some of the weirder insomnia treatments handed down through the ages. From what to rub on your feet, to what to line your belly with, here are 6 bizarre prescriptions for when you're tired of counting sheep.
1. Rub Your Feet in Dormouse Fat
In Elizabethan England, people who couldn't sleep would often rub dormouse fat onto the soles of their feet.... READ ON
Wallace and Gromit are national heroes in the U.K. The cheery, if absent-minded inventor/baker/pest control expert and his faithful Dostoyevsky-reading canine companion have starred in some of the most fun and inventive adventures in stop-motion ever committed to film. And now, British fans of the Plasticine pair will get the chance to wander around a life-size version of their 62 West Wallaby Street home, at the London Science Museum's latest exhibition, Wallace & Gromit present A World of Cracking... READ ON
They're a lot like Robocop "“ except instead of patrolling the mean streets of Detroit in a fictional future, they could be patrolling the mean waters of the Thames. Researchers at the University of Essex at Colchester, working with a Â£2.5 million grant from the EU, are currently developing pollution-sniffing robofish to help detect harmful chemicals in the Thames and other bodies of water.
The robofish are each armed with internal GPS systems, artificial intelligence software, and... READ ON
If you're a girl who likes programming, who are your role models? Too few and far between, says UK-based freelance software consultant and tech blogger, Suw Charman-Anderson. Which is why she's named March 24, 2009, Ada Lovelace Day, the first of what could become an annual Internet event.
Ada Lovelace Day is meant to be an international day of blogging to highlight women in technology "“ more than 1000 people have pledged to write a blog post today focusing on women and their... READ ON
I recently moved to England, and animal husbandry is big news in this country "“ literally, in the case of this story.
Despite the fact that he looks like he could keep a family of four in lamb chops for a week, Bruno, a 21-pound lamb born at a Worcestershire farm last Monday, will not become an Easter roast. Instead, the farm where he was born is planning on keeping him around, as a pet and future stud ram, and to see just how big this massive lamb is going to get.
To put Bruno's birth... READ ON
Alaska is so big that you could fit 75 New Jerseys in it.