Filmmaker, photo hound, author of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Ransom was a daily contributor to mentalfloss.com for many, many years.
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I made the video above in about four minutes, for free. It's kind of an amazing technology -- used recently by GEICO to make commercials -- and with little marketing, Xtranormal has swept the internet. Their videos are free-or-cheap to make (you pay for stuff like upgraded sets, actors, etc) and lots of people have been doing it -- often to express frustration with some aspect of their everyday lives. The best Xtranormal videos have gone viral. Here are a few we thought were... READ ON
A lot of people think they know where shit comes from. (It's possible this whole article was devised just so I could write that opening sentence.) But the origins of the word "shit" have long been clouded by urban legend. Granted, the urban legend is a good one, and people can't resist a good story. The story goes that back in the 1800s, cow pies were collected from the prairie to be used as fuel on ships during long voyages -- because they weighed less than various forms of liquid fuel (many of which... READ ON
I know what you're thinking: yeah, yeah, more mashups. But I promise you, THIS IS DIFFERENT. The guy behind Girl Talk -- a laptop-wielding hipster named Greg -- raises the mashup to an art form. (An extremely danceable art form.) He's released five albums thus far, all available for free, each composed of hundreds and hundreds of clips and samples from pop songs and classic rock and hip-hop and rap and everything in between. Astoundingly, he's never been sued.
I REALLY like this stuff. The... READ ON
I know, I know -- the first rule of Book Club is, don't use Book Club as a verb! But seriously, I never thought I'd say this: I joined a book club. A sit-around-in-someone's-living-room-sipping-brandy-discussing-Jonathan-Franzen book club. For years, I didn't see the point; I had spent four years talking about books with groups of people at Kenyon College (the better of our seminars were even held in professors' living rooms), and as much as I'd enjoyed being an English lit major, it seemed like I'd had... READ ON
Vivian Maier was one of the best street photographers of her time -- and completely unknown. She worked as a sweatshop laborer in New York and for forty years as a nanny in Chicago, and during that time she took some 100,000 photographs of street scenes and cityscapes. She was an intensely private person, and spent much of her free time roaming the streets with her camera, taking pictures that she didn't show to anyone -- and many of which she never even developed. In the 1970s, she cared for Phil... READ ON
It's been awhile since I've posted any new "talking pictures" -- I've been hard at work on the book! -- but over the weekend I was inspired to make this video about them. I get a lot of blank stares when I tell people I collect old snapshots, and my hope is that this will explain why I love them.
You can follow me on Facebook or... READ ON
If you saw the Golden Globes this year, then you probably saw Claire Danes accept the Best Actress award for her role as Temple Grandin (in the HBO movie Temple Grandin). It's a bio-pic about an autistic woman who uses her astounding ability to "think in pictures" and her unusual empathy (I mean that in the strictest sense of the word) for animals to change the cattle industry, designing better and more humane ways to herd and bathe and even slaughter animals. It's fascinating and inspiring, as is Temple... READ ON
I posted a video of Richard Nixon playing the piano this morning, and it got me to wondering -- what other politicians have musical talent? Let's find out -- to YouTube!
There's Condi Rice, of course, who's a classically-trained pianist. Here she is playing for the Queen of England.
Here's Bill Clinton playing the sax on Arsenio Hall, way back in the day. Or way back in the the nineties, at... READ ON
"Egghead" is one of those words that seems to have fallen out of wide use, not unlike the fifties-ish epithet "pieface" (a favorite insult of Ramona Quimby, among others). These days I think most of us take it to mean "nerd" or "geek." While its true origins are a bit murky, it's widely agreed that "egghead" reached the height of its usage in 1952, when then-vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon used it to describe the Democratic candidate for president, Adlai Stevenson -- whose balding head... READ ON
Leave it to Vice Magazine to dirty up what is otherwise the most straight-laced and coma-inducing genre of writing imaginable: reviews of classical music albums. But just because Vice has a potty mouth doesn't mean they don't take the music seriously, which makes for some seriously interesting reading, even for people who aren't flipping out over the latest recording of Richard Strauss by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or whatever. Here are a few of my favorite reviews -- that we could... READ ON
The national animal of Scotland is the unicorn.