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Pictures From Our Readers: Their "Pants"

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Last week, we asked our ever-growing army of reader-photographers to send us pictures of their "pants," which was our in-jokey way of referring to some funny, absurd or incongruous thing in their neighborhood. (Why "pants"? This post explains.) So this past weekend, flossers from all over the country scoured their 'hoods, cameras in hand, and now the frequently-hilarious fruits of their labor are in! So without further ado ... these are your pants. Many of the submissions fell into a few categories, which is how I'll organize them here.

Pictures Relating to Psychics and Religion

Reader Ellen spotted this graffiti on the outside of a bar in Towson, Maryland. I'll be up all night trying to figure out what it means.

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Reader Kate thought there was something incongruous about this elaborate Nativity scene on a psychic's front lawn. (I think Ellen's picture makes it obvious, Kate: this psychic was a Catholic until she developed psychic abilities.)

Creepy Visual Jokes on the Side of the Road
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Beth Layton writes: "With just some simple white boards, someone turned two boring holes in a hill into the feeling you're being watched. This adds a little something to the desolate drive to my nearest gambling town, Wendover Nevada, two hours from my home."

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Reader Daniel snapped this photo from his car. "Apparently someone wanted to accommodate travelers along this stretch of rural road in upstate NY. Bless their hearts for thinking of others. This discarded toilet has been there for well over a year, and some kind soul added the sign, should anyone need to 'rest.'" (Great find, Daniel! Though it would be a little more fun if you'd caught someone taking advantage of this "rest area.")

Signs That Don't Make Sense
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Left: "I Fought the Claw," found by Juliet in Seattle. Right: "We Need A Hovercraft," bafflingly posted in front of Elizabeth McDowell's workplace in Charlotte, NC.

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Found by Njdu while visiting his family in Utah. (I called the number, it appears to be some kind of phone sex hotline? If so, this has got to be the world's weirdest ad for porn.)

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... and speaking of porn, this photo was snapped by a reader (who prefers to remain anonymous) who says this sign is "somewhere along Interstate 10," though the gas station it advertises is long-gone. Too bad -- looks like that place had everything!

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Chicken Soup for the Sole: Swapna Gupta found this sign in Hoover, Alabama, next door to a church. Seems like the shoe-repair guy is trying to steal some of the church's business!

Continue reading...

Cars That Make A Statement
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Reader Pete sent this in, and writes "One man's philosophy, carefully stenciled onto his truck. Near New Hope, PA."

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It's log! From Hamilton Carter in Boulder, CO.

The Topiary That Should Not Be
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... just in case they couldn't read it on your mailbox. Found in San Diego by Lebetho.

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The gigantic, buttocks-shaped topiary of Van Nuys, CA. (Thanks, Joe Maz!)

Really Bad Art
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This painting of Tom Selleck hangs in the Midwest Museum of Art in Elkhart, Indiana. Thanks to Jennifer for sending it in. (By the way, Jennifer, I'm dying to know: what does the museum call this masterpiece?)

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Keri Woodward says this scrap metal bird is known as St. Paul, MN's "Stop Chicken" (although it looks more like a seagull to me). Maybe the Stop Chicken is saying "Stop making horrible public art!"

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This happy-go-lucky cousin to Easter Island's menacing heads is the work of Wichita-based chainsaw sculptor Gino Salerno. (Thanks to Danielle Kelly for sending it in.)

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"This most decidedly ugly fish is the pride and joy of the Muskie Bar and Grill in my hometown of Ventura, IA. It is about the length of a full-size pickup truck, and the tackiness is completed by the "No Trespassing" sign nailed to its back fin. The giant muskie sits right on the busiest road in town, which runs along the lake shore. I consider this tree-turned-muskie my "pants" because every time I drive past it I say out loud, "there's that ugly fish!" (Thanks, Mindy!)

Graffiti

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Andre writes: "I'm a student at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga, and I came across this (what i assume to be commissioned...it was too intricate to not be) graffiti on a wall in a back alley we call 'sketchy alley.'" (Cool pic, Andre! But what were you doing hanging out in a sketchy alley?)

Continue reading...

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"This is spray painted by my home in Layton, UT, on a small retainer wall next to the road. Behind 'Live and Let Live,' it says 'Live in the now.' I think both are good advice for anyone. It makes me happy!" Thanks, Zerra! (By the way, it occurs to me we've got a lot of flossers in Utah! Must be an intellectual state.)

Unusual Houses
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Reader Lorena lives near this colorful house in Eugene, Oregon. Damn hippies!

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This house outside Philadelphia was voted Most Likely to Give Children Nightmares by the local neighborhood association. (We especially love the happy plastic deer in the foreground. Shudder ...) Thanks, Pete!

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This worn-out mailbox comes with instructions, so you'll be sure to get your mail no matter how stupid your mailperson is. Pic courtesy Adam in Echo Park, LA, CA. (We love you too, Adam!)

The Saddest Christmas Tree (Both of Them)
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Kellie writes: "Every year my neighbor trims her Christmas tree and then takes one of the branches she cut off and puts it in my yard - with one decoration. Therefore, I have my very own Charlie Brown Christmas tree every year. I would take it down as it's almost February, but when she plants it in my yard, she "waters" it ... freezing it to the bottom of the snow bank. I should also note that I live in Duluth, MN, where it's winter 9 months out of the year, so by the time I am able to take it down, it'll be time for her to put a new one up!"

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Kath Oltsher in Edmonton, Alberta "found this tree caught by security bars against the window in an underused building. There it was, off an alley, to the side of an empty lot, in an area that could be called the "inner city," where the poorest live and where many of the people that used to be in mental health facilities were "mainstreamed into society" ended up. Who hung the Christmas balls, tinsel and ribbon on it?" (Some poor, mentally ill Charlie Brown, we'd imagine.)

Unsettling Juxtapositions in the Workplace

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Adrienne writes: "I work as an R&D supervisor in a cosmetics manufacturing plant in southwest Oklahoma. The factory is your typical industrial warehouse-type operation. In an effort to boost employee morale, upper management decided to put out a box where we could place suggestions for fun and great ideas like "have holidays off with pay," or "how about a raise, that sounds fun." Occasionally there are a few good ideas, but the suggestions, in general, are sarcastic and a little depressing. I included pictures of the Fun Suggestion Box as well as the factory. It is sadly out of place."

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From reader Karen: "I work in the Chattanooga State Office Building (in TN), which is a very ugly government building. We have a fountain in the side lobby. Sometime last year, a lone rubber ducky appeared in that fountain. Then friends started to show up. Soon we had a whole flock of ducks. (Plus one blue whale.) Every so often, some will go missing, and a ransom note will get posted to the wall, usually demanding chocolate or coffee. We all like the ducks a lot."

And Finally ... Unclassifiable, from Liza!
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"Though perhaps not as random as the example in the assignment, these
bank time/temp signs are the figurative "pants" I pass on my daily
walk to work in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. (2 views, the closer one
has one of the signs partially blocked by a street sign.) What's so
pants-y about them? 2 things:

(1) Their sheer redundancy. There's nowhere that you can stand to
see the leftmost/furthest sign that you can't also see the middle one.
Moreover, the two perpendicular signs on the corner (the middle and
right ones) could easily be replaced by a single sign extending
diagonally from the corner of the building. And yes, they all display
the same logo and time/temp on both sides, for a total of six displays
on a single building.

(2) Though you can't tell from the photos, all of the signs always
read exactly 10 degrees F higher than the actual outside temperature,
as confirmed by the other two bank time/temp signs within a two-block
radius and the weather.com report. They've read high since installed
last summer. It's beyond me how a professional sign installing
company can post 6--six! displays and not calibrate the thermometer (I
suspect a central feed, as all always read the same time/temp). At
least the time is correct."

Thanks to everyone who participated (and apologies if your photos weren't included in this challenge -- we'll getcha next time!) Anyone interested in participating in our next photo challenge, leave a comment here and let me know!

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Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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#TBT
Paw Enforcement: A History of McGruff the Crime Dog
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Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Jack Keil, executive creative director of the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency, was stuck in a Kansas City airport at three in the morning when he started thinking about Smokey Bear. Smokey was the furred face of forest fire prevention, an amiable creature who cautioned against the hazards of unattended campfires or errant cigarette butts. Everyone, it seemed, knew Smokey and heeded his words.

In 1979, Keil’s agency had been tasked with coming up with a campaign for the recently-instituted National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), a nonprofit organization looking to educate the public about crime prevention. If Keil could create a Smokey for their mission, he figured he would have a hit. He considered an elephant who could stamp out crime, or a rabbit who was hopping mad about illegal activity.

A dog seemed to fit. Dogs bit things, and the NCPC was looking to take a bite out of crime. Keil sketched a dog reminiscent of Snoopy with a Keystone Cop-style hat.

Back at the agency, people loved the idea but hated the dog. In a week’s time, the cartoon animal would morph into McGruff, the world-weary detective who has raised awareness about everything from kidnapping to drug abuse. While he no longer looked like Snoopy, he was about to become just as famous.

In 1979, the public service advertising nonprofit the Ad Council held a meeting to discuss American paranoia. Crime was a hot button issue, with sensational reports about drugs, home invasions, and murders taking up the covers of major media outlets like Newsweek and TIME. Surveys reported that citizens were concerned about crime rates and neighborhood safety. Respondents felt helpless to do anything, since more law enforcement meant increased taxes.

To combat public perception, the Ad Council wanted to commit to an advertising campaign that would act as a preventive measure. Crime could not be stopped, but the feeling was that it could be dented with more informed communities. Maybe a clean park would be less inviting to criminals; people might need to be reminded to lock their doors.

What people did not need was a lecture. So the council enlisted Dancer Fitzgerald Sample to organize a campaign that promoted awareness in the most gentle way possible. Keil's colleagues weighed in on his dog idea; someone suggested that the canine be modeled after J. Edgar Hoover, another saw a Superman-esque dog that would fly in to interrupt crime. Sherry Nemmers and Ray Krivascy offered an alternative take: a dog wearing a trench coat and smoking a cigar, modeled in part after Peter Falk’s performance as the rumpled TV detective Columbo.

Keil had designs on getting Falk to voice the animated character, but the actor’s methodical delivery wasn’t suited to 30-second commercials, so Keil did it himself. His scratchy voice lent an authoritarian tone, but wasn't over-the-top.

The agency ran a contest on the back of cereal boxes to name the dog. “Sherlock Bones” was the most common submission, but "McGruff"—which was suggested by a New Orleans police officer—won out.

Armed with a look, a voice, and a name, Nemmers arranged for a series of ads to run in the fall of 1980. In the spots, McGruff was superimposed over scenes of a burglary and children wary of being kidnapped by men in weather-beaten cars. He advised people to call the police if they spotted something suspicious—like strangers taking off with the neighbor’s television or sofa—and to keep their doors locked. He sat at a piano and sang “users are losers” in reference to drug-abusing adolescents. (The cigar had been scrapped.)

Most importantly, the NCPC—which had taken over responsibility for McGruff's message—wanted the ads to have what the industry dubbed “fulfillment.” At the end, McGruff would advise viewers to write to a post office box for a booklet on how to prevent crime in their neck of the woods.

A lot of people did just that. More than 30,000 booklets went out during the first few months the ads aired. McGruff’s laconic presence was beginning to take off.

By 1988, an estimated 99 percent of children ages six to 12 recognized McGruff, putting him in Ronald McDonald territory. He appeared on the ABC series Webster, in parades, and in thousands of personal appearances around the country, typically with a local police officer under the suit. (The appearances were not without danger: Some dogs apparently didn't like McGruff and could get aggressive at the sight of him.)

As McGruff aged into the 1990s, his appearances grew more sporadic. The NCPC began targeting guns and drugs and wasn’t sure the cartoon dog was a good fit, so his appearances were limited to the end of some ad spots. By the 2000s, law enforcement cutbacks meant fewer cops in costume, and a reduced awareness of the crime-fighting canine. When Keil retired, an Iowa cop named Steve Parker took over McGruff's voice duties.

McGruff is still in action today, aiding in the NCPC’s efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse, internet crimes, and identity theft. The organization estimates that more than 4000 McGruffs are in circulation, though at least one of them failed to live up to the mantle. In 2014, a McGruff performer named John Morales pled guilty to possession of more than 1000 marijuana plants and a grenade launcher. He’s serving 16 years in prison.

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Animals
Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
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iStock

Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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