Friday, February 27, 2009

Creative, Yes. Hygienic, Not Exactly.

Emily Gravett's award-winning children's book, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears, was created with the author's blood, sweat, and tears--and another extra-special ingredient.

Gravett wanted the pages of her book to look as though they'd been nibbled on by mice. So she let her two pet rats, Button and Mr Moo, go to town on a piece of paper. They nibbled all right, and after lunch, they decided it was time for a bathroom break. Their urine colored the page yellow, giving it a "properly ratted" look that Gravett loved. So she scanned the chewed-up, peed-upon page and used it as the background for her illustrations. Smart AND disgusting! I love it!

(As you might imagine, the book is dedicated to her pet rats, both of whom are now in rodent heaven, surrounded by cheeses of the world.)

More here!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Songs from My Youth

This is how I came to hunt alligators for a living. Cute, but it would have been better with more butt kicking.

Question: Do you think this message is still important? Or is this old news to girls these days?

How to Make a Shrunken Head

No home is complete without a shrunken head or two. They're great conversation starters when you have people over for dinner--and when you're not entertaining guests they make excellent paperweights.

Unfortunately, it's not always easy to get your hands on the real deal. So why not make your own shrunken head? All it takes is a strong stomach, a few basic ingredients, and a friend.

All joking aside, when I found some instructions for preparing shrunken heads, I was surprised by how easy it seemed. However, the process IS a bit gorey (to say the least), and I don't recommend reading about it unless you're planning to pursue a career as a coroner (or a member of a crime scene clean up crew).

You DID want gross, didn't you?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And You Thought I Would Post Something Gross

Maybe later.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I Think We All Could Use a Little Cuteness Right Now

When it starts to feel like winter will never end, I like to cheer myself up by looking at baby animals . . . Stop, stop, stop. I'm afraid I can't lie to you. I usually find baby animal sites to be mind-bogglingly dumb.

But zooborns is different. The pictures are high quality, and the animals are suitably exotic. Just be careful. Your head might explode from all the cuteness.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Underneath Los Angeles

I know I go on and on and on about New York being the greatest city on earth, but this week I must admit that Los Angeles has some **ahem** fine qualities as well.

You're all familiar with the fabulous things that can be found beneath the sidewalks of Manhattan (and occasionally Brooklyn). But what would you discover if you were to whip out a shovel and start digging under LA? Well, let's start with a mammoth skeleton, the skull of an American lion and bones of saber-toothed cats and ground sloths.

In 2006, construction workers were beginning work on a new underground parking garage not far from the famed La Brea tar pits (shown below) when they began making incredible discoveries--including a set of 10-foot-long mammoth tusks. The location, which had long been a run-down parking lot, was the site of an ancient riverbed where countless Ice Age creatures met their end.

Paleontologists around the world must have wet their pants when they heard about the discoveries, which include everything from tiger bones to millipede fossils. Even more exciting? Who knows what could still be down there, hidden under the area's stores and streets.

Somebody bring me a plane ticket and a shovel!

Read more (and see some pictures) here and here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is This a 100-Foot Snake?

Today is a banner day for giant creatures! The Daily Mail (a British newspaper not necessarily known for its journalistic standards) has published photos of what appears to be an unbelievably large snake swimming in the Baleh River in Borneo.

To be honest, I'm not at all convinced that Photoshop wasn't involved in the creation of these images. But some people believe that the beast shown is the Nabau, a mythical 100-foot snake god that's said to make the Baleh River its home.


Giant Rat Captured!

Imagine THAT scurrying past you in the darkness. More here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So That's What Happened to My Birthday Cake

Read about the tragedy here.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes. You guys are the best!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Kiki Strike's Great Grandmother

She spoke excellent English, didn't she?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

The Horned Helmet of Henry VIII

Imagine it's the sixteenth century, and you're a foot soldier in an army at war with England. In the heat of battle, you look up to see a fat man on top of a gigantic horse. He's wearing a sparkling suit of expensive armor--complete with a horned helmet unlike anything you've encountered before. And he's coming right at you.

Of course the owner of the helmet shown above never saw battle. Henry VIII was more of a lover than a fighter (haha). In a way it's too bad. Suits of armor were designed to strike fear in the hearts of opposing soldiers, and there's something about this particular helmet that's so incredibly creepy that it would certainly have given his troops an advantage.

I'm not a huge fan of armor, but the Royal Armouries in Leeds has a pretty cool collection. Be sure to check out the elephant armor!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Skip This Post If You Ever Plan on Eating Again

Oh the things you can learn from the New York Times! Today's lesson: A maggot or two never hurt anyone.

An opinion piece printed this morning turned my attention to a vomit-inducing pamphlet produced by our very own US government. The title is too boring to print here, but the purpose of the pamphlet is anything but dull. It's meant to list the contaminants allowed in various food products.

What contaminants, you ask? Well here's just a short list . . .

A 100 gram container of Apple Butter is allowed to have up to 4 rodent hairs, a mold count of 12%, and 5 whole insects ("not counting mites, aphids, thrips, or scale insects"). Yum!

The same amount of Fig Paste is allowed to have up to 13 insect heads. (What about the rest of the insects?)

Pizza sauce can contain up to 30 fly eggs, while the oregano used to add a little extra flavor can contain up to 1 milligram of "mammalian excreta" (yeah, that's right) per pound. And you might want to pass on the mushrooms as well. A 100 gram sample is allowed up to five maggots, two millimeters or longer.

According to the Times Op-Ed Piece, "You’re probably ingesting one to two pounds of flies, maggots and mites each year without knowing it."

(Below: Lunch)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why Are They Laughing?

Perhaps because the oldest human hairs were recently discovered . . . inside a pile of hyena dung. Scientists estimate the hairs to be around 200,000 years old.

Unfortunately, science can't tell us what color the hairs were originally--or whether they were curly or straight. Nor can they tell us whether their owner was tough and sinewy--or finger-licking good. (OK, that was totally unnecessary.)

Read more here. Thanks for the tip, Big K.

Too gross? Click here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Need a Day Off?

Who doesn't? Fortunately, Instructables offers some handy tips on "How to Fake Sick to Stay Home from School." Wait a second . . . I would NEVER recommend something like this. Forget I ever posted it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The New Amazons

It's funny. Just yesterday, someone asked me if Pokrovia is real place. I explained that while the kingdom of Pokrovia exists only in the world of Kiki Strike, there IS a town in Russia that's known as Pokrovka. I "borrowed" the name after I read that the graves of an ancient race of warrior women had been discovered a few miles outside of the village. I figured Kiki Strike would have fit in quite well with them.

Back in ancient times, that particular part of the world was teeming with butt-kicking ladies. Among them were the legendary Amazons themselves, who lived in and around what is now the Ukraine. And it seems as if the women there still fancy a fight once in a while.

This morning I came across an interesting photo essay. French photojournalist Guillaume Herbaut recently journeyed to the Carpathian Mountains to spend time with a group of Ukrainian women who aspire to live like modern-day Amazons. They call themselves the Asgarda, and I gotta say, they look pretty tough to me. From what I can tell, their days are spent learning the martial arts, getting weird haircuts, and fighting with some awfully impressive "equipment."

I don't know about devoting my life to their cause, but I sure wouldn't mind hanging out with the Asgarda ladies for a month or two!

See more photos here.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What a Day!

I had a splendid time at Symphony Space today. Big thanks to . . . Jennifer and Katherine for setting the whole thing up . . . to Lisa for asking all the best questions . . . and to Halley for her delightful reading. (The first time I've heard Kiki read by a pro! Thanks for the autograph!)

And it was a real thrill to meet lots of you in person. I had NO IDEA there were so many girl (and guy) geniuses roaming the city. Soon we'll be ready to take over the world. (Or at least Manhattan!)

For those of you who couldn't make it, I'm going to write up a little preview of Kiki #3 soon, so stay posted!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Irregulars Salute: Mayor Michael Bloomberg!

The Irregulars would like to extend an honorary membership to New York's very own mayor (and terrorist groundhog victim), Michael Bloomberg!

For years, New Yorkers have been detecting an unusual odor in the air. From time to time, the sweet smell of maple syrup has wafted through our neighborhoods, frightening many and causing pancake sales to skyrocket.

What's the source of the mysterious scent? There have been countless theories involving everything from government conspiracies to bug spray. (Though only the Irregulars know the REAL story.) But now Mayor Bloomberg has finally offered a credible answer. We applaud his detective work (and his awesome map, shown below), despite the fact that he got it all wrong. (But when in doubt, it never hurts to blame New Jersey!)

Watch the Mayor explain it all here. Then check out The Columbia Conspiracy for the truth!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Scooped! The Lost Tunnel of Brooklyn

Ever since I moved to Brooklyn last November, I've been meaning to pen a post about one of the borough's biggest secrets. But now I find that the intrepid explorers at Curious Expeditions have beaten me to the punch! Blast you and your fabulous blog!

Visit their site, and you'll find the amazing story of the world's first subway--a nearly two hundred-year-old forgotten tunnel beneath one of the busiest streets in New York City--and the fearless teenager who discovered it. Here's a little taste . . .

In the early morning of 1981, [19-year-old Bob] Diamond stood on the corner of Atlantic Ave and Court St, looking down at a small smooth manhole. The manhole looked unlike any others laid down by the city. . . Diamond opened the manhole, dreams of the tunnel dancing in his head, but a foot beneath the opening was a solid floor of dirt. It looked like he was wrong.

Or was he?!?

Today, you can visit the tunnel Diamond discovered. Even more exciting, a large section of it remains unexplored. And many believe it may contain a 170-year-old train--as well as a few other treasures. (According to CE, "River pirates, bootleggers, mountains of treasure, Jon Wilkes Booth’s lost diary, and even “Persian Vampires" [have been] said to live within the mythical tunnel.")


UPDATE: More about the tunnel in the 2/15 New York Times!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Groundhog Tries to Eat New York's Mayor!

(Above: The vicious attack! Photo by Irving Silverstein for the Staten Island Advance.)

THIS IS WHY I DON'T TRUST GROUNDHOGS! As you may recall from last year's Groundhog Day post, I consider groundhogs to be nothing more than evil, overgrown squirrels. Now I have proof.

Yesterday, New York's dear Mayor Bloomberg paid a visit to Staten Island Chuck (aka: Charles G. Hogg), the city's own weather-predicting rodent. But instead of offering his forecast and allowing the mayor to go his merry way, the nasty little fur ball decided to have a taste of hizzoner.

Thank goodness our mayor is blessed with superhuman speed. He managed to yank his finger back before the beast could unhinge its jaw and swallow him whole. (Okay, I made that part up.)

After the attack, Mayor Bloomberg was seen sporting a bandage on one finger. But all he would say to the terrified reporters was, “Given the heightened response against terrorism, and clearly in this case a terrorist rodent who could very well have been trained by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, I’m not at liberty to say any more."

Read about it all here.

(PS: The nasty little rodent DID NOT see his shadow. And yet it's snowing like crazy right now. Like I said: DON'T TRUST GROUNDHOGS.)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Oldest Known Vampire Grave Discovered!

Archaeologists excavating an ancient burial ground in the Czech Republic recently unearthed the remains of one of the world's first "vampires." The 4,000-year-old grave was found set apart from neighboring burials, and the gentleman inside was weighed down with stones that had been placed on his head and chest.

The experts believe these measures were taken to prevent his corpse from rising and walking the earth. Similar graves have been discovered throughout Ireland and Scotland, where ancient Celts also feared the bloodsucking hordes.

Read more here.

4,000-year-old vampire graves are creepy, sure. But even creepier were the models at the latest fashion show from British designer Alexander McQueen. (My favorite below.) Seems the "undead" look is quite trendy these days!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Your Very Last Reminder!

As I'm sure you know by now, on February 8th, Kirsten Miller will be appearing at Symphony Space in New York. She would be particularly thrilled to see regulars of Ananka's Diary! (Boy, writing in the 3rd person is weird.) If you're coming, send a note to so she can keep an eye out for you!

Find out more here.