Saturday, February 16, 2008

10 Animal Heart Facts For Valentine's Day

We know that our emotional connection isn't why the heart is important (to put it simply it pumps blood). However, I wanted to take this opportunity (as I stare at my newly acquired Valentines scattered with pink and red hearts) to share with you a few facts that demonstrate why the heart is amazing. Please feel free to send me other neat facts about the heart and I'll gladly post them!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine's Day. (Believe me, this beats (ha!) me showing you some exposed wildlife hearts which I considered doing)

ADVISORY: The following facts make great date conversation.

  1. Frogimage_2The heart of a blue whale is as big as a car.

  2. Frogs and lizards have three chambers whereas birds and mammals have four.

  3. The human heart beats roughly 35 million times a year.

  4. Octopuses have three hearts.

  5. Dogs have a larger heart to body mass ratio than all other mammals.

  6. Scientists have re-created the heart of a rat and it even started beating!

  7. Pythons grow bigger hearts at mealtimes.

  8. GiraffeA blue whale's heart beats six times a minute (next to a human's 70 times)

  9. A manatee's heart rate slows down by half during a long dive.

  10. A giraffe depends on it's powerful heart that weighs up to 12kg so that it can fight the force of gravity up that long neck to the head.

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Coney Island Freaks of Yesterday and Today

Although the first “freak show” at Coney Island opened in 1880, the golden age of the village’s side shows began in 1904 when Samuel W. Gumpertz opened Lilliputia, an entire miniature city scaled for its dwarf and midget inhabitants. Lilliputia became such a popular tourist attraction at Dreamland, Gumpertz spend many years afterwards finding and promoting human oddities. After Dreamland burned in 1911, he opened Dreamland Circus Sideshow. Other side shows soon opened, including The World Circus Freak Show, The Steeplechase Circus Big Show, Hubert’s Museum, The Strand Museum, and Wonderland Circus Side Show. Human oddities who worked in circuses and other traveling shows enjoyed the relative stability and permanence of Coney Island. Here are a few of the most popular.

Lionel, the Lion-faced Man


Lionel, the Lion-faced Man was born Stephan Bibrowski in Poland in 1891. He had long and thick hair all over due to hypertrichosis, a genetic variation once known as “werewolf disease”. Bibrowski was a very intelligent man who spoke five languages and once aspired to become a dentist. His side show act included gymnastic tricks. He appeared at Dreamland Circus in Coney Island in the 1920s.

Violetta, the Limbless Woman


Aloisia Wagner was born in Bremen-Hemelingen, Germany in 1906. She was healthy, but had neither arms nor legs. Her parents raised her to be as self-sufficient as possible. Aloisia entered show business at age 15, took the stage name Violetta, and emigrated to the United States a couple of years later in 1924. Port authorities at Ellis Island almost rejected her as a possible welfare case until they ascertained that she had employment with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. Violetta could move around by hopping. Her performance was centered around her singing, but she also demonstrated her abilities, such as sewing or lighting a cigarette using only her mouth. Violetta performed at Dreamland Circus Side Show in Coney Island as well as touring circuses. See more pictures of Violetta here.

We’re just getting started. Keep reading for more of the Coney Island sideshow attractions.

Jean Carroll, the Tattooed Lady


Jean Carroll started her side show career as a bearded lady, and ended it as a tattooed lady! She fell in love with contortionist John Carson, who felt a mutual attraction but couldn’t bring himself to marry a woman with a beard. Jean didn’t want to give up her side show career. After a fifteen-year friendship, Carroll took the plunge and removed her lucrative beard by electrolysis. She then underwent painful all-over tattooing to continue her side show career. The two married and remained lifelong partners.

Zip, the Pinhead


William Henry Johnson was born in New Jersey in 1842. He was thought to be microcephalic, as he had an oddly tapered head with a normal size face. However, he had the intelligence to perform for over 60 years as different personas with the Ringling Brothers and at Coney Island. In his early career, he was billed as a “wild man”, a missing link from Africa. Later on, he became a comedic performer, and even played the fiddle so badly that people paid him to stop. He died a wealthy and popular man at age 84.

The Four-legged Woman


Josephene Myrtle Corbin was born in either Texas or Tennessee in 1868. She had the lower limbs of a dipygus twin growing from her pelvis. She was billed as The Four-legged Woman, but her twin’s legs were too weak to stand on (although she could move them), and her right leg had a clubbed foot. In effect, the four-legged woman really had only one good leg. She married Dr. Clinton Bicknell when she was 19 and eventually had five children. Since her twin had reproductive organs, it was rumored that three children were born from one set of organs and two from the other.


In the mid-20th century, the popularity of side shows declined to the point that most went out of business. Part of the reason was competition from television, but it was also a change in the public’s perception of the freak shows. Modern sensibilities decreed it was wrong to stare at people because of an accident of birth. There was also suspicion that those on exhibit may have been exploited. Some were, but the new attitude was a kick in the teeth to human oddities who were proud to be known as freaks. Side shows allowed them to support themselves financially, and some had become quite wealthy. Coney Island was a community where side show oddities could be accepted by their peers, and where life was easier than constant travel with circuses.

The side show never really died out. Instead, the focus turned from human exhibits to performers. Although we are unwilling to stare and laugh at people for who they are, it’s OK to be entertained by what people do. The new freak shows employ people who have worked hard to become freaks. Sideshows by the Seashore employs several. Founded in 1986, the venue is the brainchild of Dick Zigun who is largely responsible for Coney Island’s recent renaissance.



Insectivora, also known as Angelica, is billed as “The World’s Most Partially Illustrated Woman”. However, her tattoos are just a backdrop for her act. Insectivora breathes fire, eats fire, walks on a ladder of swords as well as on broken glass, swallows razors, and she sings, too! Insectivora has performed at Side Shows by the Seashore for six years. Visit her MySpace page.

The Twisted Shockmeister


Scott Baker, the Twisted Shockmeister is probably the first person you’ll see at Side Shows by the Seashore. He’s the outside talker, or the guy at the door who entices you to come in and spend your money. But he’s also a performer. Scott is a magician and ventriloquist, just for starters. He also drives nails through his head, eats fire, glass, insects, and razor blades, levitates, and gives lectures. At the end of his list of talents, Baker calls himself a “Mental Flosser”. You can’t beat that for talent! Visit his MySpace page.



Serpentina, or Stephanie Torres is a snake charmer and contortionist with Side Shows by the Seashore. Serpentina is the reigning Miss Coney Island. You can see a portion of her act at YouTube.

Donny Vomit


Diamond Donny V, Donald Thomas, or Donny Vomit is the Master of Ceremonies for the Side Show by the Seashore. He also has a full repertoire of freak skills. His act involves some heavy hardware, including animal traps, chainsaws, a straightjacket, an electric chair, a bed of nails, and of course, “Mental Floss.” Chief magazine has an interview with Donny V. Visit his MySpace page.

Heather Holliday


Heather Holliday is a sword swallower at Side Shows by the Seashore. She is also a fire eater and a human blockhead. Visit her MySpace page.

You can keep up with news from the Coney Island entertainment industry at the Coney Island Freaks Livejournal community. Side Shows by the Seashore also runs a school for those who would like to become freaks.

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Baby for sale! Sick mum tries to cover debts

Baby for sale! Sick mum tries to cover debts

China to the US: Take Our Women!

An interesting piece of history was discovered in a document that the State Department’s historical office released. It was a conversation transcript between China’s Chairman Mao Zedong and US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

“You know, China is a very poor country,” Mao said. “We don’t have much. What we have in excess is women. So if you want them we can give a few of those to you, some tens of thousands.”

Mao circled back to the offer a few minutes later. “Do you want our Chinese women?” he asked. “We can give you 10 million.”

Kissinger noted Mao was “improving his offer,” and the chairman is on record then saying, “We have too many women … They give birth to children and our children are too many.”

“It is such a novel proposition,” Kissinger replied. “We will have to study it.”

The conversation occurred in 1973 in Beijing, China and as far as we could find… the promised10 million Chinese women were not given to the US.

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Strange Geographies: East LA’s Abandoned Hospital

I’m sick today. Sore throat, achy muscles, the works. You’ll never guess why, so I’ll just tell you: probably because I spent an unhealthy chunk of Valentine’s Day location scouting (for an upcoming film shoot) at a creepy, mold-infested, long-abandoned hospital in East Los Angeles.

Built in 1938 as a hospital for railroad employees (and reportedly occupied by Howard Hughes on occasion), nobody’s been admitted to Linda Vista Hospital since it closed in 1990. Besides the odd ghost sighting (speciously reported here) the place has been haunted mainly by film crews: they shot parts of Outbreak, End of Days, Boogeyman 2 and the pilot for E.R. there. As a result, I’m sure a lot of the creepier stuff we found was concocted by production designers with dark senses of humor over the years, but knowing that didn’t diminish the flesh-crawly feeling my small crew and I got from being there, totally alone. (There wasn’t even anyone there to show us around — “it’s unlocked, just go right in,” the caretaker told us over the phone.)

I guess I could’ve gotten sick some other way, but this place was just so drippingly disgusting — it just seems right that I should’ve picked up some horror-movie infection while there. I started taking pictures for reference, but soon realized that after years of being the haunted hospital location of choice, the now ironically-named Linda Vista wasn’t much good for shooting non-haunted stuff anymore. (Which, in retrospect, is fine — doing a 20-hour night shoot in this place would be pretty low on my list of Fun Things to Do.)

Outside …

… and inside.

The drapes were a nice touch, I thought.

Anyone missing a door?broken_door.jpg

The autopsy table.

Unsubtle, but to the point:666.jpg

Unless this was the psych ward, I imagine this is the work of a very disturbed art director.

Free gurney! It’s blocking the entrance to the morgue, which I didn’t quite have the courage to explore.

I think this used to be an operating room.OR.jpg

No, there’s nothing creepy about this bed.

A lot of the hallways were wet.

Why does this remind me of a scene from The Shining? yellow_room.jpg

All the comforts of home …

What happened to the third bed?

If you enjoyed this post, check this one out, about an abandoned suburb in Florida — also creepy, but in a very different way.

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Man Falls Backwards Down Concrete Stairs and Breaks his $1M Violin

London- David Garrett, the former model, named the David Beckham of the musical scene, said he tripped when leaving Barbican Hall after a violin performance. Unfortunately, he was carrying his 18th century violin and smashed it to pieces. Garrett had bought the 1772 violin for $1 million in 2003, and is devastated. Apparently, he is in denial as well because he is hoping it can be repaired in New York. This was not exactly a graceful fall said witnesses. One witnesses said it was the most humorous thing he has ever seen. He recalled Garrett flipping around backwards, falling down the concrete stairs, and then screaming, "My violin." The violin was a G.B. Guadagnini, and unfortunately he will be playing with a loaner for his Valentine's Day concert. Garrett told the associated press, "I hope and pray that it can be fixed, but if it can't, I hope my insurance policy will let me buy another great violin," the 26-year-old musician said. To learn more visit, and in the photo below, pretend that laptop=violin since no one actually seems to have photographed the violin in mid-air.


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You Suck at Photoshop #6

The 5 Most Badass Presidents of All-Time

By Daniel O'Brien

As we all prepare to spend a long weekend enjoying Presidential Savings on mattresses and used Toyotas, we could take time to thank some of the presidents who passed bills that protect some of the freedoms your enjoy daily. Or we could spend the day celebrating the presidents who are decidedly more Action Movie Heroes than diplomats.

Anyway, guess which kind of president this website decided to focus on?

Andrew Jackson

When the 1828 election rolled around, a lot of people were terrified when they heard Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson was running. If you're wondering how a guy we're calling a bad ass got such a lame nickname, it's because he used to carry a hickory cane around and beat people senseless with it, and if you're wondering why he did that, it's because he was a fucking lunatic.

Former Democratic Senator and Secretary of the Treasurey Albert Gallatin feared a Jackson presidency because of his "habitual disregard of laws and constitutional provisions." Or in other words, the man was a loose canon--17th Century Washigton's answer to Martin Riggs. Sure, he probably didn't have an irate black lieutenant to answer to, or a weary partner who was too old for this shit, but he most certainly had a death wish.

How do we know? Well, despite everyone's best efforts, Jackson was elected to the top office, and when he wasn't busy shaping the Presidency as we know it today, you could find him out back dueling. In case you haven't been to the 18th century lately, this unmanly sounding activity actually involves standing across from an armed man and shooting at him while he in turn shoots at you. The number of duels that Jackson took part in varies depending on what source you consult; some say 13, while others rank the number somewhere in the 100's, both of which are entirely too many times for a reasonable human being to stand in front of someone who is strying to kill them with a loaded gun.

On one occasion, he challenged a man named Charles Dickinson to a duel, (the reason behind it wasn't important, not to us and certainly not to Jackson), and Jackson was even kind enough to give Dickinson the first shot. We're gonna go ahead and repeat that: In a duel with pistols, Jackson politely volunteers to be shot at first. Dickinson happily obliged and shot Jackson, who proceeded to shake it off like it was a bee sting. When Jackson returned the favor, Dickinson was not so lucky, and that's why his face isn't on the twenty. The bullet, by the by, remained in Jackson's body for 19 years because, we assume, Jackson knew that time spent removing the bullets would just fall under the general category of "time not dueling," Jackson's least favorite category.

Andrew Jackson may have been the first master of Gun Kata

Greatest Display of Badassedry:
Andrew Jackson was the first president on whom an assassination attempt was made. A man named Richard Lawrence approached Jackson with two pistols both of which, for some reason, misfired. With the possibility of an assassination taken off the table, Jackson proceeded to beat Lawrence near death with his cane until Jackson's aides pulled him off the assassin.

The guns were inspected afterwards and it was discovered that they were in perfect working order, leading some historians to believe that it was an odds-defying "miracle" that Jackson survived, while we're pretty sure that the bullets, like everyone else, were simply scared of Jackson.

Most Badass Quote:
"I have only two regrets: I didn't shoot Henry Clay and I didn't hang John C. Calhoun."

That's right. In a life rich with murdering people for little-to-no reason, Jackson's only regret was that he didn't kill quite enough people. People like Calhoun who, it should be noted, was Jackson's vice president.

John F Kennedy

Nowadays, John F. Kennedy is remembered mostly for getting shot in the head which, while admittedly badass, barely makes the top ten of badass things he's ever done. Plagued with a bad back his entire life, Kennedy was disqualified from service in the army. Instead of using this as an excuse to pursue the decidedly more sane strategy of staying the fuck away from explody things, Kennedy had his dad pull a few strings so he could sneak his way into the navy, where he eventually became a lieutenant. Just to get some perspective, Bill Clinton dodged the draft, Grover Cleveland paid someone else to go in his place when he was drafted, but Kennedy beat the system by forcing his way into the navy. Once there he handled himself like a gravel eating shit-miner, instead of the rich Boston pretty boy he actually was.

Today, he's got his own damned aircraft carrier named after him.

The USS John F Kennedy can launch 80 planes and can single-handedly win a war with most countries on Earth

Upon leaving the Navy, he took up boning on a near full-time basis. Sure, he dabbled in being a Senator and a President or whatever, but his full-time job was Pimping. In fact, if boning-your-girlfriend-right-in-front-of-you was a business, you can bet your cuckolded ass that Kennedy would have been its District Manager.

While almost no two sources are in agreement as to just how much tail Kennedy snagged, historian John Richard Stephens says that "Kennedy confided with friends that he could only be satisfied with three women a day." It's amazing that, with all this boning, Kennedy didn't lose focus and make any colossal screw-ups while in office, and-...What? Bay of what? Moving on.

JFK's sexual conquests allegedly include Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Jayne Mansfield, Angie Dickenson, Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan, famous burlesque stripper, and rap name pioneer Blaze Starr. There are even rumors that he also had sex with his insanely hot wife once in a while too.

Greatest Display of Badassedry:
In August of 1943, while serving as skipper of the PT-109, Kennedy's boat was ripped in two by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. Kennedy and his crew were tossed into the water and surrounded by flames. Kennedy, despite a chronic back injury and an even more chronic boning-induced-exhaustion, managed to swim four hours to safety while towing an injured crewman by the life jacket strap with his teeth. His fucking teeth!

Most Badass Quote:
"Jack could be shameless in his sexuality, simply pull girls' dresses up and so forth. He would corner them at White House dinner parties and ask them to step into the next room away from the noise, where they could hold a 'serious discussion.'"

That quote comes from Kennedy's closest friend, Lem Billings. For proof that you will never be as badass and pimpsational as Kennedy, go ahead and try that "Hey baby, let's go have a serious discussion" line on any girl and then come back and tell us how much sex you didn't have.

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams is, hands down, one of the most God awful ugly-assed presidents in American history but, well, the Predator was pretty hideous too, and no one will deny that he still kicks a fairly serious amount of ass. Also like the Predator, Adams was known as a shrewd negotiator and a strong advocate of outdoor boning. But we'll get to that a little bit later.

With his father away from home most of the time busying himself with the rebel cause, Adams, at age eight, was the man of the house. As if ensuring the safety and prosperity of an entire house before you even hit puberty isn't daunting enough, Adams had to do it all during a fucking war. He, in fact, often talked about watching the battle of Bunker Hill from his front porch, constantly worried about being, as he wrote in his diary, "butchered in cold blood, or taken and hostages by any foraging or marauding detachment of British soldiers." Remember when you were eight and you worried about missing Pokemon? Yeah. If you're feeling, perhaps, a little wet right now, it's because the ghost of an eight year old John Quincy Adams is pissing all over you as you read this.

Adams also maintained a strict, Rocky-like regiment of constant exercise that included a swift swim across the Potomac every morning. Even at 58 years old, Adams could reportedly swim the width of the Potomac in an hour. Also, the nudity; Adams famously exercised and swam nude, presumably, in case he ever came across some emergency that needed immediate boning while out exercising.

Greatest Display of Badassedry:
Also, since we're talking about ridiculous things that JQA did that have nothing to do with being president, he kept a pet alligator in the East Wing of the White House. That actually probably came in handy for some of that shrewd negotiating we mentioned earlier.

The character of detective Sonny Crockett
may have been based on John Quincy Adams

As for the outdoor boning? Well ...

Most Badass Quote:
"The art of making love, muffled up in furs, in the open air, with the thermometer at Zero, is a Yankee invention."

It's not too clear, but it sounds like Adams genuinely believed Americans invented having sex outside, a discovery he no-doubt believed he himself pioneered.

George Washington

Plenty of people know George Washington as the father of our country, but few people know, (and this is, perhaps, more important), just how similar he was in behavior to the Incredible Hulk. Stay with us.

As described by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington "was naturally irritable" and when his temper "broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in his wrath." One time, in fact, he became "much inflamed [and] got into one of those passions when he cannot command himself." Witnesses agreed that, after these sudden bursts of rage, Washington generally became calm and amiable again. Sound like anyone you know? Anyone, incredible, perhaps? (It's the Incredible Hulk.) The Iroquois Indians affectionately nicknamed Washington "Caunotaucarius," which translates to either "Town Destroyer" or "Devourer of Villages." We were really hoping it translated to "One Who, (When Angry), You Will Not Like" so we'd have more evidence for this whole Incredible Hulk thing, but "Town Destroyer" is pretty cool too, we guess.

Washington wasn't just a shirt-ripping comic book character waiting to happen, he was also an amazing general and, possibly, totally invincible. Washington was always at the frontlines in any of the many battles he took part in and there are countless stories of Washington returning from battle with bullet holes in his uniform, or without a horse, (it having been shot from under him), but he always remained unharmed. As a general, he believed, (like the always-screaming Leonidas), in the strength of small numbers. Typically both a loner and rebel, Washington preferred a small band of dedicated warriors over large armies any day of the week and he won plenty of battles when the odds were decidedly not in his favor. He once wrote that "Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all."

Though that isn't quite as catchy as "This is Sparta!" you'll have to agree that it's slightly more eloquent and certainly more recyclable, as it is more applicable to situations that may not explicitly involve Sparta.

Greatest Display of Badassedry:
Making America.

Most Badass Quote:
After another tough battle where Washington was miraculously not wounded, he wrote a letter to his brother detailing his experiences. He described being surrounded by bullets and death and concluded by saying "I heard the bullets whistle and, believe me, there is something charming to the sound of bullets." When he caught news of this, King George III reportedly remarked that Washington's attitude would change if he'd heard a few more. But King George III didn't win the war, so fuck him.

Theodore Roosevelt

Checking Teddy Roosevelt's resume is like reading a How-To guide on ass-kicking manliness. He was a cattle rancher, a deputy sheriff, an explorer, a police commissioner, the assistant Secretary of the Navy, the governor of New York, and a war hero. Out of all of his jobs, hobbies and passions, Roosevelt always had a special spot in his heart for unadulterated violence. In 1898, Roosevelt formed the first U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, known as the Rough Riders. Most people already know of the Rough Riders and their historic charge up San Juan Hill, but few know that, since their horses had to be left behind, the Riders made this charge entirely on foot. You just could not stop this man from violencing the hell out of a San Juan Hill.

Teddy Roosevelt, a split second before spitting in the invisible
face of death, and pimp slapping it with his tiny neck-hand.

And don't think that Roosevelt lost his obsession with violence when he became president, or he might just come back from the dead and murder you, (and how do you kill a Teddy Roosevelt that's already dead!?!). He strolled through the White House with a pistol on his person at all times, though, with his black belt in jujitsu and his history as a champion boxer, it wasn't like he really needed it.

It wasn't just his war record or the fact that he knew several different ways to kill you that made Roosevelt such a badass. It wasn't even the fact that he kept a bear and a lion at the White House as pets, (though that certainly helps). Teddy Roosevelt was a badass of the people. Roosevelt received letters from army cavalrymen complaining about having to ride 25 miles a day for training and, in response, Teddy rode horseback for 100 miles, from sunrise to sunset, at 51 years old, effectively rescinding anyone's right to complain about anything, ever again.

The last thing you saw before a brutal ass-kicking

Did we mention he had asthma growing up? He did, and after he beat asthma to death, he ate asthma's raw flesh and ran 100 straight miles off the energy it gave him.

Greatest Display of Badassedry:
While campaigning for a third term, Roosevelt was shot by a madman and, instead of treating the wound, delivered his campaign speech with the bleeding, undressed bullet hole in his chest. On the other end of the spectrum, reasons why certain members of the Cracked Editorial Staff have called out of work over the last year include:

"A cold."
"A stubbed toe."
"It's raining."
"There's a spider near the door."

Most Badass Quote:
This quote actually comes from a fellow politician at the time of Roosevelt's death: "Death had to take him sleeping, for if Roosevelt had been awake there would have been a fight." We have no witty commentary for that. That is just straight up badass.

Some men have to work to become badasses. But some are just born into it. You've just read about the first type, now read about the second in our article about The 9 Manliest Names in the World. Or check out the Daily Nooner, and watch a respected journalist say the words: sacred undergarments.

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call center salesman goes insane (REAL RECORDING)