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Eye of the Beholder

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If kids used to ride you for looking "beat up from the feat up" or for "taking one too many hits from the ugly stick" or even for having a "face that only a mother could love on payday," then maybe it's time you gained back some of that self-confidence...by hopping in a time machine!That's right, nothing heals wounds like time, so skip back to an age where you'll truly be appreciated for whom you are, inside and out.

But mostly out.

A Whiter Shade of Pale
Problem: You can't get a tan, and your hair's falling out.
Solution: Take comfort in Elizabethan England.
Leave it to the British to place a premium on pale skin. In the 16th century, women of leisure caked on their makeup for that fresh-from-the-morgue look and even painted blue veins on their faces for a more "natural" appearance. But if you're worried that your pale skin along won't win you acceptance, start plucking away at your hairline. If an Elizabethan woman didn't have a high enough forehead, she plucked or shaved until she got one, or sometimes even resorted to old-school Nair: Bandages soaked in vinegar and cat feces.

That Gap in Your Smile
Problem: You need a jump rope to floss between your teeth.
Solution: Head for the 14th century.
If your teeth are so separated that it looks like Moses played a hand in parting them, forget the braces and head for the 1300s. While there are plenty of modern-day beauties sporting sexy gap-toothed smiles (Madonna, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ted Koppel all come to mind), the dental quirk isn't nearly as desirable as it once was. Just flip through The Canterbury Tales for proof. Chaucer blessed his amorous Wife of Bath character with wide, child-rearing hips and brazen, red stockings, but he needed a device that even further illustrated her sensual nature"¦so he gave her the sort of "wide" smile that (back then) could make a bishop blush.

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Black Goes With Everything
Problem: Either you've chewed too much dip over the last few decades or your "Goth" phase got out of hand, because your teeth are now jet-black.
Solution: You're going to Japan!
You need to stop messing about with those fancy teeth-bleaching products and make a dash for Japan in the 1400s. Back then; it was common for Japanese women to make themselves more beautiful by dyeing their pearly whites black. The process, called ohaguro (which cleverly translates to "Black teeth"), involved soaking iron in tea or sake, then painting on the resulting black liquid. If, however, you want to put an extra coat on those teeth (remember, they can never be too black!), just make sure that the dye you're using is unleaded. Beauty always comes at a price, and in this case, the price was often lead poisoning.

More (loosely) ocular-related facts can be spotted in the eye-catching Scatterbrained from mental_floss, volume 2, issue 6.

More horrific pictures of Sam, former holder of the title "World's Ugliest Dog," can be found online. Sadly, Sam himself passed away in November of 2005.

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images
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The Library of Congress Wants Your Help Identifying World War I-Era Political Cartoons
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. government’s official library wants your help. And it involves cartoons.

The Library of Congress just debuted its new digital innovation lab, an initiative that aims to improve upon its massive archives and use them in creative ways. Its first project is Beyond Words, a digitization effort designed to make the research library’s historical newspaper collection more search-friendly. It aims to classify and tag historical images from World War I-era newspapers, identifying political cartoons, comics, illustrations, and photos within old news archives. The images come from newspapers included in Chronicling America, the library’s existing newspaper digitization project.

The tasks involved in Beyond Words are simple, even if you know nothing about the illustrations involved going into it. The Library of Congress just needs people to help mark all the illustrations and cartoons in the scanned newspaper pages, a task that only involves drawing boxes to differentiate the image from the articles around it.

Then there’s transcription, involving typing in the title of the image, the caption, the author, and whether it’s an editorial cartoon, an illustration, a photo, a map, or a comic. The library also needs people to verify the work of others, since it’s a crowd-sourced effort—you just need to make sure the images have been transcribed consistently and accurately.

A pop-up window below an early 20th century newspaper illustration prompts the user to pick the most accurate caption.

Screenshot via labs.loc.gov

The data will eventually be available for download by researchers, and you can explore the already-transcribed images on the Beyond Words site. Everything is in the public domain, so you can remix and use it however you want.

With the new labs.loc.gov, “we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” Carla Hayden, the library’s head, said in a press release.

Other government archives regularly look to ordinary people to help with the monstrous task of digitizing and categorizing their collections. The National Archives and Records Administration, for instance, has recently crowd-sourced data entry and transcription for vintage photos of life on Native American reservations and declassified government documents to help make their collections more accessible online.

Want to contribute to the Library of Congress’s latest effort? Visit labs.loc.gov.

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