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The Quick 10: 10 Famous Elephants

Who knew there were so many historical elephants? I was aware of Dumbo (fiction, I know), and I was aware of Jumbo (P.T. Barnum's famous elephant), but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Here are 10 more who have left their footprints in history (get it??).

1. Abul-Abbas was Charlemagne's personal pet. He was exhibited for the public many times, especially when Charlemagne's court was together. He died pf pneumonia in his 40s in the year 810"¦ probably after a session of swimming in the Rhine River.

ruby2. Ruby, a petite 4.5 Asian elephant, was famous for her paintings. Her keepers saw her basically doodling in the dirt with her trunk and gave her a brush and some paint, and her career as an artist was born. She died in 1998 during birth "“ her 320-pound calf had died in the womb and a massive infection had spread through Ruby. She had to be euthanized.

3. Batyr was also known as the "Speaking Elephant" because he could replicate human noises. He lived his whole life at the Karaganda Zoo in Kazakhstan and never came in contact with another elephant. He first started "talking" at the age of eight; he often asked his attendants for water and praised himself. Among his words were Batyr, water, good, bad, fool, yes and give. He also could imitate dog barks and human whistles. He made the noises by pushing his trunk into his mouth and manipulating his jaw and tongue. He died in 1993 at the age of 23.

4. Hanno was Pope Leo X's pet white elephant. Pope Leo loved him immensely and was devastated when he died at the young age of six. Supposedly he died when he was given a treatment for constipation that was worse than the constipation itself. Nonetheless, he died with the Pope at his side. The Pope wrote Hanno's epitaph himself and had a fresco by Raphael commissioned.

5. (and 6). Poor Castor and Pollux. Paris was under siege from the Prussian army in 1870, citizens killed various zoo animals for their meat. Horses were first; cats, dogs and rats soon followed. Then the zoo animals got the axe "“ antelope, camels, yaks and zebra. Sadly, Castor and Pollux suffered the same fate. The citizens really had no qualms about eating the beloved elephants that had been popular for rides around the park "“ writer Henry Labouchère gave the meat a review as if he were dining at Nobu: "Yesterday, I had a slice of Pollux for dinner. Pollux and his brother Castor are two elephants, which have been killed. It was tough, coarse, and oily, and I do not recommend English families to eat elephant as long as they can get beef or mutton."

7. Murderous Mary is another sad tale, in my opinion. She killed an assistant at the circus when he prodded her behind the ear with a hook; she was immediately given the death sentence. But how do you kill a five-ton Asian elephant? You hang it, of course. Obviously, the standard tree or gallows wouldn't work, so an industrial crane was procured. The first time they tried to hang her, though, the chain snapped. She fell and broke her hip. The second time, she died. I find the picture terribly sad and disturbing, so I won't publish it here "“ but if you're interested, here's the link.

john8. John L. Sullivan was named after the famous boxer. Why, you ask? Because he boxed, of course. He had a glove put on the end of his trunk and then sparred with his trainer. He retired after a while and became known as "Old John". He still proved to be useful, though "“ he would watch the performers' children, led the rest of the elephants around and lifted heavy items. In 1922, he walked 53 miles to pay tribute to one of the first elephant in America, who we will get to in a second. He laid a wreath at her grave.

9. Old Bet was one of the first "“ if not the first "“ elephant in the U.S. She was an African elephant purchased by a farmer in 1808 to help him around the farm, but she ended up being so fascinating that he traveled around and charged people to see her instead. If you didn't have any money on you, a two-gallon jug of rum would work just fine. She was basically assassinated by a fellow farmer in 1816 who thought it was a sin for people to be spending money on such frivolous things. Old Bet is memorialized by the Elephant Hotel and statue in Somers, New York"¦ which is where Old John paid tribute to her in 1922.

hansken

10. Hansken was on tour throughout Europe in the mid-1600s. Even Rembrandt was enamored of her and drew four chalk sketches of her. Her talents included pickpocketing, drumming, firing a gun and waving a flag.

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Food
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
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iStock

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.

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