Saturday Surprise — Artists Take On Notre-Dame

Welcome to the

weekend

I was not at a loss for this morning’s Saturday Surprise post, in fact was debating between taking you to either a turnip festival or a bread-arches festival.  But then an email popped up and when I saw it, I thought … hmmm 🤔 … maybe.  Monday’s fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame has prompted an outpouring of sadness from all around the globe.  It has also inspired artists to do some beautiful artwork that I thought I’d like to share with you today.  But first, I must share with you my embarrassingly funny story from this past week.

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while may remember last September when my dishwasher went kaplooie.  I contacted the rental office … day after day … for 8 bloomin’ weeks, then finally contacted the property owners, and it was fixed the following day!  The apartment manager was also terminated that week, but I’m not sure if there is any connection.  Anyway, just before Thanksgiving they did bring a new … brand new, still in the box … dishwasher, and all was well.

Then last week, I turned the dishwasher on Tuesday morning, but … nothing happened.  Nada.  Zilch.  Sigh.  So, I contacted them … actually, Miss Goose did, for I don’t think she liked seeing me getting ready to go to the rental office with my 18-inch rolling pin in my hand.  They said they would ‘try’ to get to it within two weeks.  Frustrated I was, but what can one do but … wait.  Well, this week on Tuesday, I had just gotten out of the shower and come downstairs, hair still wrapped in a towel, and there was a pounding on the door.  The maintenance dude!  Okay … I happily lead him to the kitchen where … there was a blob of cat puke right in the middle of the kitchen floor.  I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me.  Unfortunately, it didn’t.  But wait … it gets even better!

The maintenance man walks over to the dishwasher, looks at the wall above it, flips the switch on the wall, and … PRESTO! … the dishwasher springs to life.  Now I really, really wanted the earth to open up and swallow me.  Again, it didn’t.  Folks, I had checked the breaker, had inspected all around the switches and contacts for some food particles or grease, had tried everything short of taking the thing apart.  But I never even thought about the switch.  We never turn it off!  Best I can figure is it accidentally got turned off one time that one of us was turning off the switch next to it that controls the garbage disposer.  I felt about as stupid as I’ve ever felt, and I kept repeating, “I’m so sorry … I am so stupid …” until he finally patted my shoulder (I’m pretty sure he just wanted to get away from this crazy ol’ hag so he could go to his truck and have a good laugh) and assured me it could have happened to anybody.  Sigh.

And now, how about those pictures I promised?

On 15 April 2019 around 6:50 p.m., a fire broke out in the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. One of the most famous historical buildings, it has a strong value to Parisian and French culture and is one of the most famous buildings in the world with around 13 million tourists every year. After the tragic news about the iconic cathedral burning went viral, many artists showed their respect to the monument by drawing it.

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The construction of Notre-Dame started back in 1163 and it was finished almost 200 years later in 1345. It’s important to mention that the iconic spire was added only in the 19th century. Notre-Dame isn’t only known for its incredible architecture, it was also the cathedral in which Napoleon’s coronation by Pope Pius VII took place in 1804.

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Since Notre-Dame was first built around 700 years ago, the building required constant renovation. During the last few years, it was in desperate need of reconstruction and that’s exactly what was happening before the fire broke out. The renovation was supposed to cost €6 million. Fires often break out during renovation so it is believed that this might have been the case with the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

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Recent news declare that there have been €1 billion donated to the reconstruction of the Notre-Dame Cathedral which has caused some controversy online. Many people claim that during the past few years there have been many tragic losses around the world, with many people losing their home and their loved ones, yet nobody has ever donated this much money to any of the causes. Notre-Dame example shows how many of the world’s problems could be solved if the world’s richest people would donate to those in need.

These are only a few of the artists’ pictures inspired by this tragedy.  For more, check it out on Bored Panda. Have a great weekend, my friends!

Saturday Surprise — Who Knew?

toonGood morning, my friends, and welcome to the weekend!  I almost skipped out on Saturday Surprise today, for I’m afraid Jolly is very sick, and I wasn’t sure I could do it without him.  Oh no, don’t worry about disturbing him, for he is deep down in the rabbit hole at the moment.  Anyway,  then I came across a couple of things that had me shaking my head, saying “Who knew?”, and I thought I would see if I could do this post on my own, without Jolly’s help.


Drive it or eat it???

When you think of Volkswagon, what do you think of?

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This, right?  Well, it turns out that Volkswagen sells more sausages than Beetles!  Yes, you heard me right … sausages! In fact, in 2015 and 2017, it sold more sausages than cars overall!  Who knew?  Some would say it makes sense, since sausages have both a lower overhead cost and a lower purchase price than the average car.

In 1973, the company started making the currywurst sausages, known as “item no. 199 398 500 A” in the Volkswagen factory, at the company headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. Meant as a breakfast or lunch item in the company’s cafeteria, the sausages were served whole or chopped up and tossed with Volkswagen’s own factory-made curry-flavored ketchup. I guess they must have gone over well, for these days, 30 kitchen staffers, most of them trained butchers, are put solely on weiner duty, making 18,000 sausages every day. The pork is sourced from local farms, and the recipe, which includes curry powder, pepper, and ginger, is a company secret. The sausages come in two lengths, and are dried, smoked over beechwood, and then steamed at 350°F for 100 minutes. The finished product is shipped in packs of five to VW dealerships all over the country, who then gift it to customers after a successful sale.

vw sausagesIn 2017, Volkswagen sold nearly 7 million sausages, more than the number of VW-brand cars sold worldwide that year.  Given their role in the recent emissions scandal, perhaps they would be better off to stick to sausages?


Send it via pigeon …

I use a free greeting card service to send an occasional e-card for birthdays, get-well wishes, or sometimes just to let somebody know I’m thinking of them.  The one I use is 1-2-3 Greetings, for they are quick, simple, remember your contacts, and have a fairly decent selection.  And free … did I mention free?  So, a couple of days ago, I received this email from them …

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Back by popular demand:
Our messenger pigeons

Hi Jill!

Following the requests of many of our users, we are resuming our pigeon delivery service. Starting from April 8, it will again be possible to send real greeting cards by our top trained pigeons.

We are proud to announce that we had the top bird trainer in the country – Barbara Heidenreich – training pigeons for over a year to deliver your greeting all across USA. Currently we have over 20 pigeons available. This amazing service will start in United States only, but please be patient as more countries are to follow.

This extraordinary option will be available starting from $199 for each delivery and, due to limited availability, will have to depend on the geographical location of the sender.

More details here

Rather than a “who knew?” moment, this was more of a “Say WHAT???” moment.  Who in their right mind, using a free greeting card service, is going to pay upwards of $200 for a carrier pigeon to deliver a card???  I can mail a greeting card for 45 cents, for Pete’s sake!

Now, I saved this message because I was so incredulous.  Just last night, as I was cleaning out my email box that had gotten up to over 600 messages, I came across it again and notice the “More details here” at the end of the message.  I had not clicked on that when I first received the message, so I clicked this time to see what else they were trying to profit from … perhaps you could have a bottle of Dom Perignon delivered by carrier pigeon.  Well …

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I now have a bit of a sheepish grin on my face, for … had I bothered to look at the date of the email … April 1st … April Fool’s Day … Oopsie.  Got me!


More Lego art — kitties!

Remember … was it last week or the week before … when I posted a bit about some magnificent Lego sculptures?  Well, last night I came across another … the sculptures are not huge like the ones from last time, but they are … well, take a look for yourself …Lego-cats-1Lego-cats-2Lego-cats-3Lego-cats-4Lego-cats-5Lego-cats-6Lego-cats-7Being a housemate to currently six, and at one time as many as ten of these furry critters, I thoroughly enjoyed these!


I saw this on a friend’s post on Facebook last night and found it humorous.  Might be an idea for some of you who are parents of teens!humour


Well, folks, without Jolly to help, I’m afraid that’s all I can come up with for this morning.  Let us hope that Jolly feels better by Monday!  But never mind, for it’s the beginning of the weekend, and you no doubt have better things to do anyway.  Take care and have a great weekend, my friends!  Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday Surprise — Legos ‘n Squirrels ‘n A Town For Sale

Hey guys … it’s the weekend!!!  And better yet, spring is finally here … well, sort of.  My crocuses are in bloom, though there are only four of them, Maha’s daffodils are blooming, and I was outside for a few minutes today in a t-shirt and didn’t even feel cold!


Legos-2I am not an artistically talented person, as I’ve mentioned before, but I admire those who are.  I’ve concluded, though, that some people have entirely too much time on their hands.  Legos.  Remember building stuff with Lego bricks?  I could build a fence, or a small house (no windows, doors or roof, though).  But take a look at the artistic endeavours some have accomplished with those little plastic blocks …

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Full-size Lego giraffe

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Lego-plane

Probably just as safe as a Boeing

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The Beatles in Legoland

Lego-cruise-shipThis cruise ship is 8.44 meters long, 1.33 meters wide and 1.54 meters high, and is made from more than 2.5 million LEGOs. The weight of it is also quite stunning because it weighs around 2 tons, that is, about 6,100 pounds!Lego-wasp

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They even re-create classical paintings and sculptures with Lego …

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Escher’s Relativity

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Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

Lego-Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

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Munch’s The Scream

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Rodin’s The Thinker

Talented?  For sure, but I still have to ask … who has time to do these things?  There are plenty more if you’d like to check them out at Bored Panda!


Now, when you think of squirrel, what do you think of?  Grey, brown, muted colours, right?  But I bet you didn’ know about the Malabar giant squirrel, also known as Shekru.  These guys are native to India … take a look …squirrel-1

As the name suggests, they are huge. Stretching as long as 3 feet, they are much harder to miss than our own scurrilous buddies. Admittedly though, the brilliantly blue bushy tail accounts for much of the Malabar’s length.squirrel-2.jpg

However, they may be more difficult to find than their large size and bright coat suggest. The shades of black, brown and orange, as well as maroon and purple, can assist them in blending perfectly with the forest canopy, where they spend their time leaping from tree to tree. This is especially useful for escaping the attention of predators, such as various birds of prey and also leopards.squirrel-3.jpg

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Did you know that there is an entire town for sale in Indiana?  No?  It’s the town of Story, Indiana, and there is a … wait for it … story to go with the town!Story-1.jpg

The town began in 1851, when a doctor named George P. Story received 173 acres of land from Millard Fillmore, 13th president of the United States. Over the years, the town then known as “Storyville” started to grow—farms, Story’s medical practice, and a school. In 1882, Story got its first dry goods store and post office. It never grew particularly large, but the story goes that the Great Depression cleared out what few families were left, threatening to end Story and turn it into a ghost town.Story-3More or less abandoned to the elements, Story saw a small resurgence in the early 1980s. Benjamin (who goes by just one name) encountered the town—on the edge of Brown County State Park and not far from Bloomington—for the first time in 1978. He saw the old general store, a house, a gristmill, a barn, and “an assortment of mostly dilapidated buildings,” on four and a half acres and for sale for $65,000. He and his wife Cyndi took a chance on the unique town and decided to set up shop in the form of a restaurant, housed in the old general store. [It] had no indoor plumbing when we moved there, only an outhouse in back,” he says. The second floor was one large room. “Many years previous, owners had obtained a Studebaker franchise and assembled buggies up there,” Benjamin says. “Parts were sent by rail from South Bend to Freetown, brought to Story on horse-drawn carts and first-generation pickup trucks, hauled upstairs, and assembled. The final products were let down on a ramp through a door in the back.” He remembers Story being very dark, and very quiet.

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Benjamin’s restaurant

There are only six houses in Story. One of them, built in the Queen Anne style, is the Wheeler-Hedrick House, across the street from the store. Another, built in 1858, is known as the Story-Griffitt House. Benjamin and Cyndi bought them all, one at a time, and converted them into overnight accommodations—the Story Inn. “We also built a commercial kitchen in the back [and] the old general store became the dining room,” Benjamin says. “When we sold Story we had a 100-seat restaurant and 18 overnight rooms, all on 23 acres.”Story-2The town’s current owner, Rick Hofstetter, bought the town in 1999. Hofstetter put more effort into Story, and the 40 years of care has turned into a fairly popular—though out-of-the-way—tourist destination. While most of Story’s buildings have been renovated, the village has not lost its 19th-century charm. Because it was a relatively desolate (and poor) town for decades, its original historic wooden floors, globe lighting, and tin ceilings remain. Just last month, the town was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today all of Story can be yours, for only $3.8 million!  Hey, if all my readers kicked in a mere $1,396 each, we could go in together and have our own little town!


Well, folks, I know you have a weekend awaiting you … I hope you have a great one and do something fun!  Maxine.jpg

Saturday Surprise — Chindōgu

Welcome to the weekend, my friends.  I wasn’t sure there would be a Saturday Surprise this week, for I’m not in the best of humour, but I skipped Jolly Monday, and really didn’t want to let you down again this week.  Still, I was debating … cute animals?  A journey somewhere?  And then I hit on something totally unique and it fascinated me, so I’m hoping you will enjoy it.

It’s called Chindōgu, and it is the Japanese art of useless inventions!  Literally translated, chindōgu means unusual (珍 chin) tool (道具 dōgu).  Kenji Kawakami coined the term chindōgu. According to a 2001 article in Japan Times, Kawakami, now age 72, has made over 600 chindogu since he began inventing. Yet he doesn’t own any patents and has never made a single yen by selling his creations …

“I despise materialism and how everything is turned into a commodity. Things that should belong to everyone are patented and turned into private property. I’ve never registered a patent and I never will because the world of patents is dirty, full of greed and competition.”

Despite the seemingly universal appeal for his inventions and their purpose to amuse, Kawakami laments that sometimes he is not taken seriously.

“In Europe they treat me as an artist. In Australia and Canada, I’m called a scientist. In China and Hong they wonder why I don’t try to make money from my inventions. But in Japan and the US, they consider me a maker of party goods.”

There are ten commandments of chindōgu:

  1. A Chindōgu cannot be for real use — They must be, from a practical point of view, (almost) completely useless. “If you invent something which turns out to be so handy that you use it all the time, then you have failed to make a Chindōgu,” it says.
  2. A Chindōgu must exist — A Chindōgu must be something that you can actually hold, even if you aren’t going to use it.
  3. There must be the spirit of anarchy — A chindōgu must be an object that have broken free from the chains of usefulness. They represent freedom of thought and action.
  4. Chindōgu are tools for everyday life — Chindōgu must be useful (or useless) to everyone around the world for everyday life.
  5. Chindōgu are not for sale — Chindōgu cannot be sold. “If you accept money for one, you surrender your purity,” it says.
  6. Humor must be the sole reason for creating a chindōgu — The creation of Chindogu is fundamentally a problem-solving activity. Humor is simply the by-product of finding an elaborate or unconventional solution to a problem.
  7. Chindōgu is not propaganda — Chindōgu should be innocent. They should not be created as a perverse or ironic comment on the sorry state of mankind.
  8. Chindōgu are never taboo — Chindōgu must adhere to society’s basic standards.
  9. Chindōgu cannot be patented — Chindōgu cannot be copyrighted, patented, collected and owned.
  10. Chindōgu are without prejudice — Everyone should have an equal chance to enjoy every Chindōgu.

Let’s take a look at some, shall we?

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Baby mop

How convenient … let your baby clean the floor while he’s learning to crawl!  Put ‘em to work early!

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Cat mop

Or, if you prefer, let the cat clean the floor.  That cat looks none too happy, though.

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Chindōgu gloves

How cool!  Everything you need, literally right at your fingertips!

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Noodle cooler

Now this one is really pretty clever, albeit perhaps a bit bulky … a small fan attached to chopsticks to cool the noodles on the way to your mouth!

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Butter stick

Because you just never know when you’re going to run into a slice of unbuttered toast, right?  My luck, I would get it confused with my chapstick.

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Finger toothbrush

And after you ate that slice of buttered toast, well of course you’ll be wanting to brush.

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Toilet paper hat

For those times when just a few tissues stuffed into your pockets simply aren’t enough.

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Camera umbrella

Awww, now isn’t that cute … a little umbrella for when that perfect photo op comes along on a rainy day!

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Shoe umbrella

And since you wouldn’t want to get your feet wet while lining up that photo op …

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Banana holder

Now who doesn’t need a case for their banana?

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Bubble wrap keychain

For those times when either, a) you’re bored/stressed and need something to do with your hands, or b) you just want to annoy the heck out of someone.

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Third hand

Now this is one I can see being useful!  More than once I have had to have a fingertip sewn back on because I took my eye off the ball … er, knife!

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Sun lighter

Zippo ran out of fluid?  Bic just won’t flick?  No worries … this amazing sun-lighter will magnify the sun’s rays and presto, your smoke is lit.  Well, actually it may take a long time if it isn’t a particularly hot and sunny day.  Still …

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Storage tie

What could be more convenient than having everything you need stored in the back of your ties?  Um … pockets?

Well, I hope you enjoyed some of these fun, un-useless inventions!  Now off with you … go have a wonderful, fun weekend!

Saturday Surprise — Here and There

Hi friends!  No, leave your jackets on, for I’ve had the Filomobile tuned up and we’re going on an adventure today!  We haven’t done this in so long, partly because of my cold and partly because of Mother Nature’s cold.  But today, I’m mostly better, the sun is shining and it’s relatively warm, so let’s go do some exploring, shall we?  Fasten your seat belts and we’ll be on our way to …

The Atacama Desert in Chile

No, don’t worry … the Filomobile is good on all manners of terrain … we won’t get stuck!  What I want to show you, though is a sculpture, right there in the middle of the desert. hand-1.pngIt is called Mano de Desierto (Hand of Desert) and is the creation of Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal.  Built in the early 1980s, it was financed by a local booster organization called Corporación Pro Antofagasta.hand-2.pngThe motion of hands rising from the ground is an obsession of Irarrázabal’s. His other famous works include another over-sized sculpture exploring the same idea: “Monument to the Drowned” is located on Parada 4 at Brava Beach in Punta del Este, a popular resort town in Uruguay.hand-3.pngThe hand rises about 11 meters, or 36 feet from the floor of the desert and is the only break in the deserted monotony.  Isn’t that cool?  Can’t you imagine Irarrázabal spending day after day out here in the desert, on a ladder, building this gigantic hand!  And can’t you imagine some less-than-sober person coming through on the Pan-American Highway and coming upon that?

And now, we move on to …

Krakow, Poland …

… where we will visit yet another sculpture, Wojtek the Soldier Bear Statue.  This one has quite an interesting backstory.

The story of Wojtek the bear is almost like a fairy tale. It begins with a group of Polish soldiers in 1943 who were released from the Soviet Gulags after the Nazis invaded the USSR. Stalin needed whoever he could get and allowed his prior enemies to rejoin the fight against the Axis.Wojtek-cubDuring this trip to freedom, the group stumbled across a lonely bear cub that they decided to adopt. This proved to be a good move as the bear became incredibly good for morale and helped the group through many hardships that way.Wojtek with his regimentOver the years the bear grew up into a fully fledged soldier. He could carry supplies, drank beer, and enjoyed cigarettes. He also enjoyed wrestling soldiers in a good-natured way. The soldiers were very attached to their furry friend, as was Wojtek to them. Because of this, they enlisted the bear into the army as a private, since the army forbade pets at the battlegrounds and it was the only way that Wojtek could come with them. He was so popular he became the mascot of his company, the Polish 22nd Transport Artillery Company.Wojtek with soldierAfter the war, Wojtek and his regiment moved to Scotland where they settled down and built up new lives. The men got jobs and houses and Wojtek got a new home at the Edinburgh zoo, where he lived until 1963. The bear was very popular in Scotland and there is even a statue of him there.

Wojtek statueIn Poland, he is also fondly remembered, and in 2014 this memorial statue of Wojtek was erected in Krakow. The statue was entirely funded by the locals who wished to commemorate the bear and the battles he fought in. The memorial was unveiled on the 70th anniversary of the battle and remains one of the more popular statues in Jordan Park today.

Now doesn’t that one just give you a warm, fuzzy feeling?  One more stop before we head back stateside …

East Java, Indonesia

volcano-1Kawah Ijen is one of several volcanoes located within the 20 km wide Ijen Caldera, but this one is special.  The caldera of Kawah Ijen harbors a kilometer-wide, turquoise colored, acidic crater lake that leaks sulphurous gases constantly. At night the hot gases burn to emit an eerie blue glow that is unique to Kawah Ijen. The gases emerge from the cracks in the volcano at high pressure and temperature, up to 600°C, and when they come in contact with the air, they ignite, sending flames up to 16 feet high. Some of the gases condense into liquid sulfur, and continues to burn as it flows down the slopes giving the feeling of blue lava flowing.

Pretty cool, yes?  Well, it’s almost time to head home, but one last stop in …

Skagway, Alaska …

Red-onion-1 … home of the Red Onion Saloon!  Established in 1898 as a bordello for lonely miners during the Klondike Gold Rush, the Red Onion Saloon preserves the town’s seamy history by operating a brothel museum on site. The ground floor saloon remains a bar and restaurant, but the establishment’s days of providing additional services are long gone.

red-onion-downstairsIn the 1900s, the Red Onion was a popular dance hall, and the space still hosts live music events and drag shows today. There are plenty of items on display throughout the restaurant. Racy, old-time portraits of alluring women adorn the walls and visitors can enjoy a glass of beer underneath a rather extensive display of bedpans.

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Wall of bedpans

Upstairs, the museum showcases the 10 original rooms where the saloon’s madam and her girls would entertain their clients. Each room had several doors in case a quick exit was necessary. Customers chose women by picking from one of the 10 dolls placed at the bar, each representing one of the working ladies upstairs. When a doll was chosen, it was laid down on the bar, indicating the woman was at work. When her client came back downstairs, the doll would be seated upright, to let potential customers know she was available

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The dolls

Legend has it that Lydia, a former madam at the saloon, haunts the place today. The smell of perfume down the hallways or particularly cold spots near the upstairs rooms are considered signs of her ghostly presence.

Time to head for home … I don’t know about you, but I’m tired now!  I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt this morning.  Have a great weekend, whatever you do, and keep safe!

Saturday Surprise — Izzy and Spiders!

Welcome to the WEEKEND!!!  I know you’re all excited to have a three-day wee … what’s that?  It’s not a three-day weekend?  Let me look at my calendar again … I could have sworn … oh … never mind.  Well, let me start over … I know you’re all excited to have two days off from work!  Yeah, kind of falls flat, doesn’t it?  Still … spring is nearly here, so that is definitely something to be thankful for, don’t you think?

I start this morning’s Saturday Surprise sharing a bit of a personal story.  You remember when I introduced you to the Significant Seven back in May of last year?   Since then the Sig-Seven have become the Sig-Six, for Orange died last summer, at the ripe (for a cat) old age of 19.  I mentioned that Isabella, Izzy for short, has serious issues, the most likely scenario being that she has the feline version of autism.  She comes out from under the sofa several times a day, but all it takes is a look or a word to send her scurrying back under.

The other day, I was at the store buying the usual 50-pound bag of kibble when I spotted a toy.  It was about 2-feet long, shaped like a wedge of cheese, with holes of varying sizes and two toy mice dangling from strings inside.  Now, our cats have two laundry baskets filled with toys, plus a kitty condo, kitty beds, and … well, they are spoiled.  But when I saw this toy, something just tapped me on the shoulder and said … Izzy will like this.  It was on sale, so long story short, we now have a cheese wedge in the living room floor along with a myriad of other “kitty things”.

But I was right!  Izzy does like it!  See for yourself …20190307_144857.jpg20190307_144908.jpg20190307_144912.jpgEven better, though … she actually let Miss Goose brush her, for the very first time ever!20190222_162702.jpgSo, perhaps she is beginning to get just a smidge braver?


I was doing my usual scan of news sources yesterday when I came across something in The Guardian that I thought would make a lovely Saturday surprise!  Now, I know some of you have an aversion to things that walk on eight legs, but these are truly so gorgeous, so different, that even you will be enchanted.  Well, all except perhaps the last one. blue-legged-tarantulaThis is the Blue-Legged Tarantula, only recently documented by arachnologists Ray Gabriel and Danniella Sherwood in the Journal of the British Tarantula Society (who knew there even was such a society?)  Isn’t he beautiful?  Malaysian naturalists, however, claim that they first photographed the spider in the wild and that the specimens were illegally removed from their habitat.  A fight over a spider!


peacock-parachute-spiderThis Peacock parachute spider is huge – about 20 centimeters or 8 inches in diameter! He gets his name from his purply-blue, metallic legs and his habit of jumping down from trees.  According to Matthew Robertson, senior keeper of invertebrates at ZSL London Zoo, this spider …

“Can deliver quite a painful bite as it parachutes on to the top of your head.”

Ummmm … maybe not, thank you anyway.  They are extremely rare and indigenous only to a small area in India.


peacock-jumping-spiderPeacock jumping spiders are extraordinarily colourful, with the additional draw – particularly compared with the peacock parachute spider – of being only a couple of millimetres long. According to the experts, jumping spiders behave much like dogs or cats.  Hmmmm …


 

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Mirror sequined spider

Robert Whyte, an Australian spider expert, first caught sight of this tiny spider when its sparkly abdomen caught the light like a disco ball. The silvery sheen is made of guanine, a digestive by-product. Says Mr. Whyte …

“Instead of excreting it all out into the environment through their poo, some of it excretes out onto the surface of the gut.”

Well, that’s rather … yuck … but it is a beautiful spider!


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Red-legged golden-orb weaver spider

This spider – found in South Africa, Madagascar and elsewhere around the Indian Ocean – is not just four pairs of pretty legs. Like others in the Nephilinae subfamily, it is known for its webs of impressive structural stability, strong enough to entrap birds and even bats. The web also glows gold in the sun, hence the name.


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Wasp spider

This very large, very colourful spider resembles a wasp in order to protect itself from predators, although it is not dangerous itself. Its commitment to the aesthetic extends to its web, which has a wide, white zig-zag strip running down the middle for no clear functional purpose.


crab-spider

Crab spider

The crab spider isn’t quite as eclectic as some of the others, but I think it’s cute!  Instead of spinning a web, it conceals itself within flowers to ambush its prey, changing its appearance to match.  Clever little dude!  Rather like a chameleon.  According to Mr. Robertson …

“If they live on yellow flowers, they tend to be yellow. They sit there waiting for some poor unfortunate bee to come along, then they nab them. It’s quite grim.”

Ah, well … a spider’s got to eat, y’know.


desertas-wolf-spiderAnd last, but not least, we have the Deserta wolf spider!  These guys are a critically endangered species, and in 2016 a captive breeding program was set up at Bristol (UK, not Tennessee) Zoo with 25 individuals being captured and taken to the zoo, over 1000 spiderlings were produced in 2017 and it is hoped that some of these can be reintroduced to Desertas to boost populations.

And I also stumbled across an interesting tidbit positing that a fear of spiders is actually in our DNA …

Recent research has claimed that a fear of spiders is a survival trait written into our DNA. Dating back hundreds of thousands of years, the instinct to avoid arachnids developed as an evolutionary response to a dangerous threat, the academics suggest.

It could mean that arachnophobia, one of the most crippling of phobias, represents a finely tuned survival instinct. And it could date back to early human evolution in Africa, where spiders with very strong venom have existed millions of years ago.

Study leader Joshua New, of Columbia University in New York, said: ‘A number of spider species with potent, vertebrate specific venoms populated Africa long before hominoids and have co-existed there for tens of millions of years.

‘Humans were at perennial, unpredictable and significant risk of encountering highly venomous spiders in their ancestral environments.’


And on that note, I shall leave you to your weekend!  Keep safe and enjoy it, however you spend it!Weekend

Saturday Surprise — A Gnome Update!!!

gnome-2It was exactly three years ago, March 2nd 2016, that I first wrote about the gnomes in Pennsylvania.  At the time, I only had about 50 followers and while everyone who read the piece seemed to like it, not that many people read it.  There have been a couple of updates since then*. Those who have joined my blogging family since the initial post, I encourage you to take a look at that piece, as it is background for what follows.

The man who had built the teeny tiny homes for the teeny tiny gnomes was Steve Hoke, who as you will see in the comments of the original piece, enjoyed his small bit of fame, as did his grandchildren.  Well, a week or so ago I received a message from Mr. Hoke:

“Hi Jill! I just wanted to update you on the Little Buffalo State Park Gnome relocation program. After being moved to other welcoming local parks, the Gnomes are thriving. There are now about 40 homes in the parks and other locations. In addition, I have made approx. 50 more homes that have been donated for various fundraisers to include the Pa. Breast Cancer Coalition and Relay for Life. The homes also adorn the lobby at the Ronald McDonald House in Hershey, Pa., local schools, Dr’s. offices and have even made their way to the Netherlands and many states. A local young lady who is battling stage 4 cancer has three of the homes which, “give her the strength to deal with her treatments and to fight the disease.” Gnome magic lives.”

gnome signageNeedless to say, I was just thrilled to hear all of that, so I did some digging.  No, Joe, not with a shovel in the back yard.  As Steve said, the gnomes have moved to other parks and such, and wherever they go, Steve builds them special houses.  He has even expanded and is now building them the most adorable little treehouses now!gnome treehouseSadly, one of the areas the gnomes moved to was Noye Park near the town of Duncannon, Pennsylvania, and just three days before Christmas last year, vandals struck and for no reason other than to be mean, destroyed all seven of the gnomes’ homes in the park.  😢

gnome-home-vandalized Luckily, though, none of the gnomes were injured and so will need new homes.  Steve was, of course, disappointed, but I’m betting he has already built new homes for them.  A borough official, Lisa Landis, has met with private organizations and also set up a GoFundMe page to install security cameras throughout the park, so hopefully the new gnome homes will be safe.

But on to the good news …

As Steve mentioned in his message, there is a local woman, Angelina McGarry, who is battling cancer.  She first saw one of the gnome homes when she attended a Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition fundraiser, and she says she just knew she had to have one.

“I was just mesmerized by it.  This was going to be my ‘starting chemo gift’ to myself.”

Well, there were three gnome homes up for auction, and Angelina won the very one she had hoped for.  But she got a special bonus last November when she actually met Steve and his wife, Marion, for he built her a special gift — a gnome home treehouse, with several levels, ladders, fencing, furniture, a beehive, a butterfly and many other colorful, fun features!gnome-house-Angela-McGarry

gnomesBut what is a gnome home without a few gnomes to occupy it?  Now, gnomes are very sociable creatures … with other gnomes.  They aren’t a big fan of people, though, and it took some doing to convince a few of them to go spend time with Ms. McGarry.  But they had come to trust Steve over the past few years, for he had always looked out for them, and in his special way, he was able to convince a few of the teeny tiny gnomes to give it a try.  From what I read last night, it is working out fabulously and the gnomes are happy as little larks!  I suspect the day will come when they will long for the park again, for trees and adventure, but as long as Ms. McGarry needs them, they will be right by her side.  Check out the video …

Steve’s gnome houses have spread far and wide, as he mentioned in his message.  The Rosemary House and Sweet Remembrances is a tea room/herb and spice shop in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.  Not long ago, the owner found a pair of gnomes residing in the garden of the tea house and she wrote to Steve to see if he would build them a home.  Of course, he did …

gnome-home-Rosemary

And a few of the gnomes even opened their own little fruit-and-veggie stand behind the tea house where they sell … teeny tiny fruits and veggies!gnome-fruit-veggie-vendor.JPGThree cheers for Steve Hoke and his wonderful project to provide such adorable teeny tiny homes for all those teeny tiny gnomes!  Keep up the good work … the world needs more people like you!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the gnomes and the homes this morning!  Have a safe and fun weekend, my friends!

* Links to all three previous posts about Steve, the gnomes and their homes:

The Gnomes Have Lost Their Homes (part 1 – original post)

Update: The Gnomes Have New Homes (part 2)

Saturday Surprise — Return of the Gnomes!

Saturday Surprise — Strange & Funny Critters!

Good morning folks … it’s the WEEKEND!!! I’m so happy when you guys make a little time to come by and visit at the beginning of the weekend … it makes my weekend that much better! Remember the time I did a Saturday Surprise post about unique animals?  Well … I’m in the mood today for some cute animals to bring a ray of light, since Mother Nature is doing a poor job of it these days.

First, let’s start out with some unique animals that most of us have never heard of, let alone seen!

This guy reminds me of a stern-looking grandfather …Emperor tamarinHe is actually an Emperor Tamarin, found through Central and the northern half of South America.  And this guy is a Cotton Top Tamarin, so named for obvious reasons.cotton-top-tamarin.jpg


Here we have a Magnificent Frigatebird, famous for its bright red, balloon-like throat pouch.

Frigatebird.jpgThis pouch is found on male frigatebirds, and they typically inflate it to get females’ attention.  Hmmm … it would certainly get attention, but I’m not sure I would be attracted.  But then … I’m not a bird.


Now aren’t these guys just adorable …

They are Peacock Spiders, native to Australia, and named for their bright colors and dancelike courtship rituals.  They are lifting a leg as part of the mating dance.


This next guy is so ugly he’s cute, if you know what I mean …Lowland_Streaked_TenrecHe is a Lowland Streaked Tenrec.  Tenrecs are like a cross between a shrew, an opossum and an otter, with a 5-6 inch body, long snout and vestigial tail.  Found only in the rainforests of Madagascar, its bright yellow stripes and barbed quills signal danger for predators


This is a Zebra Duiker and at first glance I thought it was perhaps a mammalian bumblebee!zebra_DuikerA member of the antelope species, the Zebra Duiker is found in the lowland primary rain forests of West Africa.  They’re tiny (30-35 inches long, weighing 40-45 pounds), with short, sharp horns and zebra-like stripes that help them hide from the many predators that eat them.  They also have super-powerful nasal bones, which allow them to use their face to crack open the tough exterior of certain fruits.


And lastly, this little guy …Honduran_White_Bat… is a Honduran White Bat, also known as the Ghost Bat, and is one of only two white bat species in the world.  They’re found only in the jungles of Central America, where they’re usually seen hanging in colonies of up to 6 from heliconia plants.


Next, I wanted to take a few minutes to look at some beautiful wildlife photography. Every week, The Guardian does a “Week in Wildlife” feature and I am always amazed at how the photographers get so close and get such beautiful shots.  Here are a few from the last couple of weeks …

This first one is called Bond of Brothers by David Lloyd, New Zealand/UK.Brother lionsThese two adult male lions, probably brothers, greeted each other by rubbing faces for 30 seconds before settling down. Most people never have the opportunity to witness such animal sentience, and Lloyd says he was honoured to have experienced and captured such a moment.  Isn’t this heartwarming and gorgeous?

Here we have one called Fox Meets Fox by Matthew Maran, UK.Fox meets foxMaran has been photographing foxes near his north London home for more than a year, and ever since spotting this street art he longed of capturing this image. After countless hours and many failed attempts, his persistence paid off.  My question, though … are there normally foxes roaming the streets of London?

Here we have a rescued pangolin …

pangolin

Photograph: Themba Hadebe/AP

… believed to be the world’s most trafficked animal, looking for food on a private property in Johannesburg, South Africa.


And that’s about all we have time for this morning, but of course what would an animal post be without a cute animal video???  This one is guaranteed to make you laugh!

I hope you enjoyed the animals today, hope you got a chuckle from the video, and most of all, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!  Keep safe and have fun, my friends!

Saturday Surprise … A Sad Story And A Small Journey

Good morning, friends, and welcome to the …weekend-2It’s been a long and ugly week, hasn’t it?  I saw the sunshine for all of 7 minutes on … I think it was Wednesday, or perhaps Tuesday.  Haven’t seen it since.  Perhaps I scared it off when I started shrieking, “BRIGHT LIGHT … BRIGHT LIGHT!!!”

I have to tell you a sad story that crossed my path this week.  No couple gets along all the time, but most couples who truly love each other manage to work through their problems.  It seems that if a couple stays together for, say 30-40 years, they aren’t likely to split for any reason other than death.  But the couple I’m going to tell you about today are the exception.  They were together, as best anybody can figure, for around 90 years, and yet their relationship dissolved.

Both Bibi and Poldi were born in Switzerland in 1897 and became a couple during the Roaring Twenties.  They later relocated to Austria in the 1970s.  They shared a love of many of the same things, such as tomatoes.  They seemed to have everything going for them until suddenly they began having troubles.  Just a little spat, but unusual for them.  After all, this was a couple that had made it through the Great Depression, two World Wars, and the millennium. Surely one little spat wouldn’t do them in.

They tried counseling, and eventually a temporary separation, with Poldi moving into his own bachelor’s pad after Bibi bit him one day in 2011, drawing blood!  But the counseling didn’t work, and the ‘trial’ separation became a permanent one.  Today, they live in side-by-side matched condos, but rarely even see each other.matched-condosDid I mention that Bibi and Poldi are Galápagos tortoises?

Bibi-Poldi

The spat that dissolved a 90-year love affair

Bibi and Poldi reside at the Reptilienzoo Happ in Klagenfurt, Austria.  It is a sad story, but also a fascinating one, and I encourage you to read the entire story at Atlas Obscura!

Poldi-seeking-Bibi

Poldi is looking for Bibi

Bibi-tomato

Bibi loves her tomatoes!

Now that I’ve broken your hearts, let’s hop aboard the Filomobile for a quick jaunt, for there are a couple of things I really want to show you!


kelpies-1Welcome to Helix park, in Falkirk, in Scotland, and these two impressive statues are the Kelpies, sculptures that form a gateway at the eastern entrance to the Forth and Clyde canal, and the new canal extension built as part of The Helix land transformation project.

According to sculptor Andy Scott:

“The original concept of mythical water horses was a valid starting point for the artistic development of the structures. took that concept and moved with it towards a more equine and contemporary response, shifting from any mythological references towards a socio-historical monument intended to celebrate the horse’s role in industry and agriculture as well as the obvious association with the canals as tow horses.”kelpies-2kelpies-3

Pretty impressive, don’t you think?


While we’re on this side of the big pond, let’s hop over to Belgium and visit La Balade des Gnomes.  What, you ask, is that?  Well, it is a bed-and-breakfast, but a rather unique one, for it has ten themed rooms, no two alike.  Let’s take a look, shall we?Trojan-horse-exteriorThis is the exterior of the most famous suite, a stand-alone, two-story building in the shape of a Trojan Horse. The Trojan Horse suite has its own motorized drawbridge entrance.

trojan-horse-entrance

The horse’s head is a room that can be moved around by levers inside. The whole building gives the feeling of being within a mythical, medieval, wooden, post-apocalyptic mobile home. There’s also a jacuzzi tub, as an added bonus.

Other rooms include the Macquarie Island room where your bed is a boat which appears to float on real water and there is a real beach with real sand in your room. The suites are filled with wooden toadstools, starry skies (glowing on your ceiling) and crooked windows.

This one is the Legend of the Trolls room …

legend-of-trolls

Legend-of-trolls-bedroom

Personally, I don’t think I would enjoy spending a night here, but I thought it would be fun to see!b-b-1

b-b-2

Um … thanks, but no, I really don’t think I could sleep with those … things … above my head!  The price isn’t bad as these things go, although it is out of my budget … 134 €, or about $151 USD.


Well, folks, I know it was a short jaunt this week, but it’s getting late and we all have things we need to do this weekend, so we better be getting back.  I do hope you enjoyed the little trip, and we’ll take a longer journey soon … perhaps even next week!

Have a fun and happy weekend … by the way, Happy Family Day to my Canadian friends and enjoy your long weekend!

Saturday Surprise — Weird Buildings And A Cute Kitten!

Good Saturday morning, friends!  Come in out of the cold and join me for a cuppa before you head out on your weekend errands.  I was really hoping we could take a journey today, have an adventure, but I’m still not quite up for it.  I thought about having Jolly take you, but … well … while I adore the little guy, he’s even more directionally challenged than I am, and I was afraid I might not see you again for a month!  But I did find a couple of fun things for us to start the weekend.

Ever hear of Frank Gehry?  No?  I hadn’t either, until I came across some strange-looking buildings and found that they were all designed by the same architect:  Frank Gehry.

Frank GehryFrank Gehry is a Canadian-born American architect, residing in Los Angeles.  A number of his buildings, including his private residence, have become world-renowned attractions. His works are cited as being among the most important works of contemporary architecture in the 2010 World Architecture Survey, which led Vanity Fair to label him as “the most important architect of our age”.

Let’s take a look at some of his buildings …

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Fred And Ginger, Prague, Czech Republic

The Fred And Ginger or The Dancing House in the Chech Capital is one of the most controversial works of Gehry, because of the audacity that he had when he thought of and implemented the idea of building two modern, dancing buildings that don’t fit in with their classical surroundings. Yet unusual shapes have enriched Prague’s old town and now it’s iconic. Oh, and the name ‘Fred and Ginger’ was chosen because of the dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers that inspired Frank Gehry.


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Museum Of Pop Culture, Seattle, Washington

This massive construction looks like it’s melting under Seattle’s mellow sun, yet it’s far from that. This sheet-metal covered structure was inspired by the rock music and the energy that it embodies. Gehry even admitted that the preparations included buying and putting together guitar pieces in order to create a form which would inspire the soon-to-be the museum of pop culture.


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Marqués De Riscal Hotel, Elciego, Spain

A small Spanish Town in a region that is famous for its wine today is probably even better known for something way more extravagant. It’s yet another boundary-breaking Gehry’s work and it’s a luxury hotel that looks like something that would make Don Quixote forget about windmills and start preparing for a much bigger battle.


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Stata Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts

The full name of this building is “The Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences” and it’s was designed for none other than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was built in the place of Building 20, a place which was surrounded by legends and local M.I.T. folklore. Since 2004 the Stata Center has attracted so much attention that it’s become a legend of its own.


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Lou Ruvo Center, Las Vegas, Nevada

This work is not a museum, nor a concert hall, in fact, it’s something quite to the contrary. It’s a center for brain health, or as the full name goes The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Lou Ruvo is a businessman from Las Vegas, who lost his father due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore he initiated the project and in 2010 it became reality.


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Vitra Design Museum, Weil Am Rhein, Germany

Despite having completed many cutting-edge projects all over the world, this one was the first in Europe. It’s a museum that exhibits furniture and interior design pieces and solutions, yet it’s the building itself that attracts the most attention. It’s special in more ways than one – it was the first time Gehry said yes to curved forms in his project. The result speaks for itself.


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Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain

Even though It looks like something where Ice King from Adventure Time would live in if he had a house in Spain, Guggenheim Bilbao serves a big purpose – it’s a museum of modern and contemporary art which in itself is a piece of art. Named as one of the most important works of architecture in the last decades by numerous experts, this building has many reasons why it’s unique. This construction was so successful and well acclaimed that it started attracting tourists to the city of Bilbao. Lots of tourists. During the first 12 months since the museum opened, tourists generated $160 million for the local economy. This building basically revived an entire city. This economical phenomenon even received a name – the Bilbao Effect.


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Biomuseo, Panama City, Panama

Biomuseo, an ecology museum, was yet another step for Gehry, as this was his first project in Latin America. Panamanian politicians started talks with Gehry about realizing his works in this location in hopes that this would eventually create a “Bilbao Effect” and attract more tourists and investments. The bright colors, which is not a typical characteristic of Gehry’s work, were chosen to represent the rich nature of Panama.


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Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building, Sydney, Australia

In 2015, Gehry’s influence reached the seventh continent when he finished his first project in Australia. It’s a business school building of the University of Technology Sydney and it’s estimated that in order to create an unusual brick building like this one, they had to use around 320,000 custom-made bricks.


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Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France

Fondation Louis Vuitton is a museum and a cultural center that rests in Paris, surrounded by the Bois de Boulogne park. It took 3,600 glass panels and 19,000 concrete panels to form this armada-looking structure. It opened in 2014 and is the most famous addition to the Parisian art world in the XXI century, where pieces by artists like Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein are exhibited.


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The Fish, Barcelona, Spain

Yes, it’s what it looks like – a colossal abstract fish. This eye-catching sculpture was presented to the world back in 1992, during the preparations for the Olympics that took place in Barcelona later the same year. It’s made of metal plates so the humongous fish reflects sunlight and therefore changes its colors and looks even more vivid in real life.


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Marta Herford, Herford, Germany

Martha Herford was a textile factory, but with a touch by Frank Gehry, it was transformed into a contemporary art museum. An art museum that looks like it was built out of clay. On Mars. By aliens.


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Binoculars Building, Venice, Los Angeles, California

Originally known as the Chiat/Day building, it didn’t take long until people started referring to it as the Binoculars building. And it’s not difficult to see why. The whole building is more than the giant binoculars, which, actually, are an original artwork by Claes Oldenburg and serve as an addition to the building itself.


Well … what did you think?  Some pretty wild architecture, eh?  What was your favourite?  Maybe in our travels one of these days we’ll visit some of them and see them up close!  And now, because you all know how I love animals, and also for the younger readers who were likely bored by the tour of the buildings, I end with an adorable video about a kitten named Churro the Purro, born with deformed back legs, and how he overcame his disability to become a beloved family member.

Have a fun and safe weekend, my friends!

*Header image is The Iac Building in New York.  No sparkly and shiny sheet-metal in sight, which automatically made The Iac Building stand out from other creation by Frank Gehry. That’s why it’s said that above its resemblance to the sails of a ship, it’s conceptually closest to an iceberg. And indeed it looks like one, resting in the ocean that is New York.