90 Miles From Tyranny : 10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (2/23/19)

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (2/23/19)

With another week in the history books, it’s time to sit back and review some of the stories that made the news over the last few days. Click here if you want to learn all about the major headlines. Otherwise, read on for unexpected and outlandish stories.

This week’s list is a collection of international affairs. There is the Canadian iceberg heist, the German Smurf party, and the French lightsaber duel. We find glow-in-the-dark spider fossils in Korea and striped horses in England. The Japanese get naked to uphold a 500-year-old tradition while an Australian woman dresses up as a gorilla to catch a flasher.


Photo credit: dw.com
Thousands assembled in the German village of Lauchringen to set the new world record for the largest gathering of Smurfs.The event was organized by a group called Da Traditionsverein. According to the group’s Facebook page, the occasion drew 2,762 people who donned pointy hats, white pants, and blue paint to resemble the characters from the beloved comic book.The Record Institute for Germany was there to officially confirm the number of the crowd, although it is still waiting for approval from Guinness World Records. To be eligible for the record, each participant had to have their skin either painted blue or covered by clothing. The white cap was also mandatory, although red was allowed for people dressed up as Papa Smurf. This was actually the second time that organizers attempted to break the record. They first tried it in 2016 but managed to assemble only 2,149 people. This time, their efforts overshadowed the previous record of 2,510 Smurfs set in 2009 at Swansea University in Wales.[1]

9Spider Glow

Photo credit: sciencealert.com
Scientists found fossils of spiders whose eyes still glowed in the dark even though they died 110 million years ago.Researchers from the Korea Polar Research Institute and the University of Kansas were exploring a Mesozoic shale deposit in South Korea called the Jinju Formation. They uncovered 10 spider fossils.This was noteworthy enough on its own. These kinds of finds are exceedingly rare because soft, squishy spiders don’t make very good fossils and are typically found only in amber. However, two of them were even more exciting because their eyes still shone in the dark even after all this time.Most likely, the source of the glow was the tapetum. This is a reflective layer of tissue in the eye that many animals have. It helps with their night vision but also causes the eyes to shine in the dark. Researchers believe that this could be the first preservation of a spider’s tapetum in the entire fossil record.[2]Scientists are also curious about the circumstances that led to the arachnids being preserved in shale. Other creatures such as fish and crustaceans were also present in the rocks, so they could have all fallen victim to a disastrous event like an algal bloom.

8A Cool Heist

Photo credit: BBC
One of the most bizarre heists in recent memory occurred in Newfoundland, Canada, as thieves made off with 30,000 liters (7,925 gal) of iceberg water from a vodka distillery.The criminals targeted a warehouse in the historic community of Port Union. The victim was Iceberg Vodka. As its name suggests, the company uses real iceberg water in the manufacturing of its product.CEO David Meyers says the stolen liquid could have been used to make 150,000 bottles of vodka. However, he does not expect the company to suffer too much after its loss. The water was insured, and it was only valued at C$9,000 to C$12,000. That being said, the biggest problem is that the giant ice blocks can only be harvested once a year when the icebergs move closer to the Newfoundland coast.[3] Meyers does not believe that the crime was one of simple opportunity. The thieves went through “a bit of work” to bypass the locked gate and door and brought along some kind of tanker to load and transport tens of thousands of liters of iceberg water. The original tank which contained the liquid had been drained and left behind. 

7Wickedness In Creswell Crags

Photo credit: The Guardian
There was a time when people were really, really afraid of something in Creswell Crags, a limestone gorge on the border between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, England. That’s the conclusion of heritage experts after they found inside what could be Britain’s largest assemblage of apotropaic signs—which are intended to ward off evil.The markings include hundreds of symbols, letters, and patterns which were likely carved from the 16th century onward when fear of witchcraft became widespread. It is truly remarkable how long it took for people to realize the markings were there. This is especially surprising given that ice age art was found inside the cave in 2003 and attracted a lot of attention.However, it wasn’t until last year that two keen-eyed cavers spotted a couple of symbols and alerted members of the Creswell Heritage Trust as to their meaning. The director of the trust embarrassingly confessed that they had been telling people the markings were Victorian graffiti.This prompted a closer inspection of the cave. Researchers were shocked to discover that the walls were covered in symbols. So far, they have found a thousand and counting.[4] Most of them are generic, such as PM for Pace Maria or a double V meaning Virgin of Virgins. It might be hard to tell exactly what it was about Creswell Crags that terrified people so much.

6The Luckiest Men In Japan

Photo credit: ohmatsuri.com

Thousands of Japanese men in Okayama stripped down to their loincloths and crowded together to search for two sticks believed to bring them good luck in the year to come.The tradition is called Saidaiji Eyo, and it dates back over 500 years to the Muromachi period. Last Saturday, an estimated 10,000 men gathered at the Kinryozan Saidaiji Buddhist temple in Okayama to participate.First, they took off their clothes and put on white loincloths. Then they all...

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