How a botched restoration of Jesus helped a Spanish town

From Dan Lewis at Now I Know: “If you visited the Sanctuary of Mercy church in Borja, Spain before 2012, you would have seen a fresco painted on its walls titled “Ecce Homo” (or “Behold the Man”), a depiction of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. Originally painted in 1930, it didn’t age well and required some restoration. Restoration, though, wasn’t in the budget; instead, that role fell to a volunteer, 80-something-year-old parishioner Cecilia Giménez. Giménez took it upon herself to touch up the fresco, aiming to bring it back to its original glory. News and pictures of the botched restoration quickly spread through the Internet, giving Ecce Homo its first taste of fame. Dubbed “Potato Jesus” because of the subject’s newfound resemblance to a tuber, the painting became a meme, inspiring many photoshopped parodies. And with that attention came visitors.”

Can a passenger hack an airplane? Ethical hacker Ken Munro has the answer

Russian manufacturer test-flies prototype widebody passenger airplane | CNN

From Why Is This Interesting? “An ongoing theme in action movies and thrillers is someone hacking a plane. The question, of course, is whether that is even possible. Security specialist/hacker Ken Munro set out to answer that question. He discovered that an airplane boneyard—where retired planes go to be taken apart—was willing to accept a bit of cash in exchange for his tinkering with the innards of the plane’s computing systems. What Ken discovered was that it’s thankfully not possible to hack into a plane’s control systems via the seatback entertainment. However, he did discover a significant weakness in his research: electronic flight bags, which pilots use to calculate things like the power needed for takeoff and landing. Unfortunately, it turns out these things aren’t particularly secure: many weren’t locked down and allowed the loading of random apps.”

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How Kittie Knox changed bicycling forever in the 1800s

From Joe Biel: “Kittie Knox is the reason that bicycling is more than just another leisure sport for the wealthy. As a Black teenager, she created the world that she wanted to see from the seat of her bike. Today, you can see the results of Kittie’s success in the hundreds of cities around the globe where a bicycle is used to have a happier commute, as a social galvanizer among disparate individuals, as a political leveraging tool, or for tall bike jousting. Much has been written of the bicycle as the great liberator of wealthy women from restrictive clothing. But as you will see here, it was working class women like Kittie who changed the paradigm and made the bicycle into an actual liberator of women. While the upper classes clung to long, awkward skirts and tried to prevent women from embracing social bicycling at all, Kittie was out there showing them how it was done; what the future would hold.”

The 16th century “Florentine Codex” has been digitized and is available online

From Maya Pontone for Hyperallergic: “After centuries of remaining largely inaccessible to the public, a rare manuscript featuring 2,500 pages of detailed illustrations and text documenting the history and culture of 16th-century Mexico is now available online. The Digital Florentine Codex, a seven-year project by Los Angeles’s Getty Research Institute, features new transcriptions and translations, updated summaries, searchable texts and images, and more. Modeled after medieval European encyclopedias, the Florentine Codex is a three-volume, 12-book collection written in Spanish and Nahuatl documenting the daily life and customs of the Mexica (Aztec) people, as well as other information including astronomy, flora, and fauna, during the time of Spanish conquest. It was originally created by Bernardino de Sahagún, a Spanish Franciscan friar.”

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When you get asked to a private audience with the Pope

From Patricia Lockwood at the LRB: “The invitation​ said ‘black dress for Ladies’. ‘You’re not allowed to be whiter than him,’ my husband, Jason, instructs. ‘He has to be the whitest. And you cannot wear a hat because that is his thing.’ We are discussing the pope, who has woken one morning, at the age of 86, with a sudden craving to meet artists. An event has been proposed: a celebration in the Sistine Chapel on 23 June with the pope and two hundred honoured guests, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the contemporary and modern art collection at the Vatican Museums. I am somehow one of these two hundred; either that, or it is a trap. Uneasily, I pack a suitcase. My black dress for Ladies might be a swimsuit cover-up; it looks like what a nun who is also a widow would wear to the Y.”

Former Playboy model turned Italian princess is evicted from her 16th century mansion

Rita with portrait

From Christopher Parker for the Smithsonian: “A Roman villa bearing a priceless, one-of-a-kind Caravaggio ceiling painting. A bitter dispute between a Texas-born princess and the Italian son of her deceased husband. And now, a public eviction on the streets of Rome, complete with reporters and a quartet of bichon frise dogs. HRita Boncompagni Ludovisi, born Rita Carpenter and formerly Rita Jenrette, was escorted out of her home of 20 years last Thursday by police. The move followed a January eviction order by an Italian judge, who cited her failure to maintain the 600-year-old house. The house, situated just off Rome’s Via Veneto, has been in the family since its construction. The Boncompagni Ludovisi clan includes Pope Gregory XIII, who established the Gregorian calendar during his papacy. Rita Jenrette married Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi in 2009.”

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What it’s like to be a writer in North Korea

From Kim Ju-Song for The Dial: “Aspiring writers in North Korea must register with the Korean Writers’ Union and participate in annual writing workshops. KWU editors evaluate each work on its ideological merits before allowing its publication. There are particularly strict rules regarding how the leaders and the Party may be depicted in literature. Literary success means becoming a “professional revolutionary” with lots of perks: a three-month “creativity leave” every year, permission to travel freely around the country, and special housing privileges.I had joined the KWU in the late 1980s. At that time, the only foreign literature ordinary North Koreans could access was that of other socialist nations, chiefly the USSR and China. Then I discovered the existence of a secret library with 100 copies of forbidden foreign works. Any mismanagement of the 100-copy collection would be prosecuted as a political crime.”

A memorial for my Netflix DVD queue

Netflix will end its DVD-by-mail service : NPR

From Andrew Trees for Smartset: “I still remember my excitement that first time — the red and white envelope from Netflix arriving in my New York City mailbox like a present waiting to be opened. No more schlepping to a video store only to find out that the movie you wanted to see wasn’t there. You used to put all of the films you wanted to see into a list that Netflix dubbed the “queue.” But the queue quickly became much more — a kind of running commentary on the state of my life. Much like books, the number of films I wanted to see far outran the number of films I had time to watch. But the beauty of Netflix was that it could keep track of all of those films for me until the queue itself became a kind of biography of the various phases of my life. And so, I come to my final confession — my current queue count. It stands at 485. I find it regularly mocking me. But Netflix has saved me from myself. They have finally shuttered their DVD-by-mail service.”

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Before Thanksgiving, there was the Order of Good Cheer

From Laura Kiniry for Atlas Obscura: “Four centuries ago, the settlers of a small French outpost perched on the north bank of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis River came up with the novel idea of founding an organization that would not only feed its members, but also uplift spirits during the long and brutally cold winter. Led by cartographer Samuel de Champlain, the Order of Good Cheer went on to become what’s considered America’s first social club, not to mention an inspiration for the Thanksgiving celebrations that would follow. The Order of Good Cheer featured epic feasts that took place weekly in Port-Royal, the then-capital of Acadia, a colony of New France, over the winter of 1606–07. “

When you have an identical twin, but they are inside your body

From Helena de Bres for Aeon magazine: “In Washington state in 2002, Lydia Fairchild nearly lost custody of her three children, when a test revealed that none of them shared her DNA. It turned out that Fairchild’s body was populated with cells from a non-identical twin she’d unknowingly had before birth, making her, in effect, the biological aunt of her own children. The technical term for Fairchild is a ‘human chimera’: a person composed of cells that are genetically distinct. This can happen artificially, through a transfusion or transplant, or naturally, through the early absorption of a twin zygote. Scientists estimate that 36 per cent of twin pregnancies involve a vanishing twin.”

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Sometimes sending data by pigeon beats the internet

From Janice Kai Chen for the Washington Post: “Internet speeds have come a long way since the days of the dial-up modem, but sometimes you can’t beat the millennia-old method of carrier pigeon. Ancient Greeks used the so-called rats of the sky to spread results of the Olympic Games. In 1850, Reuters used a fleet of 45 pigeons to send news and stock prices 75 miles between Brussels and Aachen, Germany. The trip took two hours. (A train would have taken six.) Whether a pigeon can best the internet depends on three things: internet speed (check your own here), distance and data. It doesn’t make a difference online whether you’re sending a file across town or across the country. It’s the size of data that slows the internet down. The longer the journey, the bigger the data needs to be for the bird to out-fly broadband.” (Related: Jona on Mastodon pointed me towards a network standard proposed in 1990 for the transmission of data by pigeon, and Amazon offers large customers a service they call Snowmobile, which puts hundreds of petabytes of data on a truck)

How a 30-year-old cassette tape became a sudden musical sensation

From Kieron Tyler for The Arts Desk: “Moments into “Maker of me”, it’s evident that The Story of Valerie is special. A circular piano figure accompanies a disembodied female voice singing and speaking of a relationship that’s “greater than myself.” The album was recorded in 1990 and until 2018 had been heard by barely anyone. In 1987, the British-born Carola Baer was in San Francisco intending to stop-off there for a few days on her way from England to Australia. She stayed until 2007. The album contains solo recordings she circulated on cassette tapes in the hope of finding like-minded musicians. One of the cassettes was found in a Portland, Oregon charity shop last year and this discovery has led to The Story of Valerie being issued as a legitimate recording.”

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Using heavy metal music on killer whales doesn’t work

From Hilary Hanson for HuffPost: “In the wake of orcas attacking boats around Portugal and Spain, sailors are turning to unorthodox tactics in an attempt to deter them. One piece of advice going around is to blast heavy metal music underwater to keep orcas away. But a marine mammal researcher warns this is a bad idea ― and one crew seems to have learned this the hard way. Florian Rutsch, who was captaining a catamaran crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, said his crew tried to use a special “Metal for Orcas” playlist they hoped would keep the large predators away. But the orcas went for the vessel’s rudder, making it impossible to steer. All crew members were ultimately rescued, and Spanish authorities towed the catamaran back to shore.”

How Elizabeth Bigley became the high priestess of fraudulent finance

Credit: Cleveland Police Museum

From Karen Abbott for the Smithsonian: “Elizabeth “Betty” Bigley was born in October 1857, the fifth of eight children, and grew up on a small farm in Ontario, Canada. At the age of 13, Betty devised her first scheme, writing a letter saying an uncle had died and left her a small sum of money. This forged notification of inheritance looked authentic enough to dupe a local bank, which issued checks allowing her to spend the money in advance. At the age of 22, Betty launched what would become her trademark scam. She saved up for expensive letterhead and notified herself that a philanthropist had died and left her an inheritance of $15,000. Next, she had a printer create fancy-looking business cards that read: “Miss Bigley, Heiress to $15,000.”

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Did a magician help defeat the Nazis in World War II?

From Lucy Davies for the BBC: “In the 1930s, Jasper Maskelyne was a superstar magician, performing to sell-out crowds at variety theatres all over Britain. A 1931 poster for his stint at the London Palladium billed him “England’s Greatest Illusionist”. Maskelyne’s greatest hoax was executed in a theatre of a very different kind – the desert near Cairo during World War Two, where he claimed to have led a team that mass-produced, as he described it in his tell-all 1949 memoir, “tricks and swindles and devices intended to bewilder and mislead the crop-headed Axis commanders”. The smoke-and-mirrors methods that Maskelyne and co employed for “Operation Bertram” are still studied by the military today, and a film telling Maskelyne’s story and starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role is set for production.”

There’s a small island in Puget Sound where the only residents are sex offenders

From Emily Gillespie for The Guardian: “A small island in the state of Washington houses a group of unlikely residents: they are all men the state considers its most dangerous sex offenders. McNeil Island, nestled in Puget Sound, is unpopulated except for the 214 people who live at the special commitment center, a facility for former prison inmates. All men have served their sentence and yet, due to a controversial legal mandate, they remain confined indefinitely. The only way on and off the small island is a passenger-only ferry, which makes the 15-minute trip every two hours. The ferry docks at a defunct prison on the island and a bus takes employees and visitors to the facility a few miles inland.”

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Historian claims Richard III didn’t kill the princes after all

From Anita Singh for The Telegraph: “The Princes in the Tower were not murdered by Richard III but spirited to Europe and later tried to retake the crown, according to new research. Philippa Langley, the amateur historian credited with finding Richard’s remains under a Leicester car park, has presented a series of “extraordinary discoveries” to back-up her theory. She believes that a duo dismissed by history as pretenders to the throne – Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, who each launched failed bids to depose Henry VII in the late 15th century – were the real princes. The two boys, sons of Edward IV and nephews to Richard, disappeared from the record in 1483 after being taken to the Tower of London. A common theory is that they were murdered by their uncle.”

Who was behind the Great Cajun Alligator Snapping Turtle Heist?

The Great Cajun Turtle Heist

From Sonia Smith for Texas Monthly: “Bayou legend has it that there are seven kinds of meat on an alligator snapping turtle, including turkey, fish, pork, and veal. The way to cook one depends largely on what part of Louisiana you find yourself in. In New Orleans’s Creole cuisine, turtle is most often served in a hearty soup. Cajuns are fond of serving it in a “sauce picante,” a spicy, long-simmering, tomato-based stew. “The fastest way to get someone to a supper around here is to say ‘turtle,’ ” Jimmy Mistretta, a Lake Charles developer and restaurateur who bought Caesar and Brutus from Viola, told me on the back porch of his Lake Charles bar, Loggerheads. “If it’s a turtle supper, everybody’s coming. You just can’t imagine the effect it has on people.”

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The children born as part of Nazi genetic research projects

From Valentine Faure for The Atlantic: “At the small elementary school in France, Gisèle Marc knew the rumor about her: that her parents were not her real parents. It was the late 1940s, a time when whispered stories like this one passed from parents to children. Women who were said to have slept with occupying soldiers had their heads shaved and were publicly shamed by angry crowds. At the age of 10, she gathered her courage and confronted her mother, who told her she was adopted when she was 4. Later, she found her adoption file, but it contained little information. As an adult, she wrote wrote to the Arolsen Archives, the international center on Nazi persecution, in Germany, to ask if there was any mention of her in the records. They told her she was born in Belgium, in a Nazi maternity home that had been set up by the SS, through which the regime sought to encourage the birth of babies of “good blood.”

When Shakespeare’s First Folio disappeared from the Bodleian Library

From the London Review of Books: “The chance meetings, narrow escapes and spooky coincidences that fill Shakespeare’s romances are also a feature of the histories and provenances of the 235 surviving copies of the First Folio of his work. One such tale concerns the copy of the First Folio that was sent to the Bodleian Library in 1624, shortly after it was published, and later disappeared. In 1905, an undergraduate named G.M.R. Turbutt brought his battered family Folio to Oxford to be dated by the experts; his great-great-great-grandfather had bought it c.1750. The librarians soon realised that what they held in their hands was the lost copy, still in its original bindings. A case of Jacobean theft was the initial assumption, but it was later discovered that the library felt the Third Folio from 1663 offered even better value, so it sold the copy of the First Folio.”

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