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Can Anyone Become A Royal?

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You've probably heard about how easy it is to become a minister these days ... websites like the Universal Life Church offer "online ordinations" for a low low price, and only ask that you not submit names to be ordained that are "obviously false" or "profane." But let's say you like the idea of adding a title to your name (like "Reverend") but don't want to deal with the moral implications of being a clergyperson or the hassle of being asked to consecrate marriages all the time. In that case, for a couple hundred clams (or possibly a lot more) you can have a royal title ... usually in less than a week!

Here's the scoop. There are probably a dozen or more online services offering titles -- everything from Lord, Lady, Baron, Baroness, Count, Countess, Duke and Duchess to Marquis, Marchioness, Viscount, Viscountess, Earl, Sir and Dame. Theoretically, anyone can get one, anywhere in the world, and you can be declared the title of your choosing -- be it the Lord of Luxembourg or the Viscount of Hoboken. A tiny parcel of land in England or Scotland is sold to you -- say one foot square -- and then is re-named "Hoboken" or whatever it is you want to be the Lord, Lady or Duke of, etc. The titles are supposedly called "peerages," but unlike most royal titles, they can't be inherited or passed on to your kids.

The most delightful thing about the sites that offer them, however, are their sales pitches:

It's frightening how people in the twenty-first century still perceive a person with a title to be richer, more intelligent and better thought of, than the average Mr. Joe Bloggs. But people do - and you can take advantage of it. If you (or your loved one) check into a hotel with a title and ring in advance I can tell you - the results are astounding! Many of visitors of this website have told me because of their title they have been given wine, fruit, and a room upgrade simply because the management are eager to improve their present class of clientele. The title holder will notice the instant change in people's attitudes. From the very first moment they realize that you have a title they will treat you as if you were royalty. And if you don't correct them - well... its hardly your fault they treat you this way - is it?

The same website goes on to promise their clientele "access to a privileged world" and "the ability to influence people effortlessly." Sounds great!

Some people, however -- notably the (real) Earl of Bradford in England, have begun to decry these online title services as fraudulent:

Con men are marketing phony baronies and dukedoms by the dozen, which they sell on the internet for thousands of pounds. "The British embassy in Washington is so worried about Americans being misled into buying fake titles that it has posted a warning about it on its website," Bradford said.

On the Earl's on website, he writes "You cannot purchase a genuine British title, with one exception, the feudal title of a Scottish baron; and certainly cannot buy a peerage title". Scottish Feudal Baronies fetch a mighty price; the Barony of MacDonald was up for sale at over £1 million."

Well, that certainly puts a crimp in my plans.

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Richard Bouhet // Getty
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science
4 Expert Tips on How to Get the Most Out of August's Total Solar Eclipse
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Richard Bouhet // Getty

As you might have heard, there’s a total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. on August 21. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the country since 1979, and the first coast-to-coast event since June 8, 1918, when eclipse coverage pushed World War I off the front page of national newspapers. Americans are just as excited today: Thousands are hitting the road to stake out prime spots for watching the last cross-country total solar eclipse until 2045. We’ve asked experts for tips on getting the most out of this celestial spectacle.

1. DON’T FRY YOUR EYES—OR BREAK THE BANK

To see the partial phases of the eclipse, you will need eclipse glasses because—surprise!—staring directly at the sun for even a minute or two will permanently damage your retinas. Make sure the glasses you buy meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standards. As eclipse frenzy nears its peak, shady retailers are selling knock-off glasses that will not adequately protect your eyes. The American Astronomical Society keeps a list of reputable vendors, but as a rule, if you can see anything other than the sun through your glasses, they might be bogus. There’s no need to splurge, however: You can order safe paper specs in bulk for as little as 90 cents each. In a pinch, you and your friends can take turns watching the partial phases through a shared pair of glasses. As eclipse chaser and author Kate Russo points out, “you only need to view occasionally—no need to sit and stare with them on the whole time.”

2. DON’T DIY YOUR EYE PROTECTION

There are plenty of urban legends about “alternative” ways to protect your eyes while watching a solar eclipse: smoked glass, CDs, several pairs of sunglasses stacked on top of each other. None works. If you’re feeling crafty, or don’t have a pair of safe eclipse glasses, you can use a pinhole projector to indirectly watch the eclipse. NASA produced a how-to video to walk you through it.

3. GET TO THE PATH OF TOTALITY

Bryan Brewer, who published a guidebook for solar eclipses, tells Mental Floss the difference between seeing a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse is “like the difference between standing right outside the arena and being inside watching the game.”

During totality, observers can take off their glasses and look up at the blocked-out sun—and around at their eerily twilit surroundings. Kate Russo’s advice: Don’t just stare at the sun. “You need to make sure you look above you, and around you as well so you can notice the changes that are happening,” she says. For a brief moment, stars will appear next to the sun and animals will begin their nighttime routines. Once you’ve taken in the scenery, you can use a telescope or a pair of binoculars to get a close look at the tendrils of flame that make up the sun’s corona.

Only a 70-mile-wide band of the country stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will experience the total eclipse. Rooms in the path of totality are reportedly going for as much as $1000 a night, and news outlets across the country have raised the specter of traffic armageddon. But if you can find a ride and a room, you'll be in good shape for witnessing the spectacle.

4. PRESERVE YOUR NIGHT VISION

Your eyes need half an hour to fully adjust to darkness, but the total eclipse will last less than three minutes. If you’ve just been staring at the sun through the partial phases of the eclipse, your view of the corona during totality will be obscured by lousy night vision and annoying green afterimages. Eclipse chaser James McClean—who has trekked from Svalbard to Java to watch the moon blot out the sun—made this rookie mistake during one of his early eclipse sightings in Egypt in 2006. After watching the partial phases, with stray beams of sunlight reflecting into his eyes from the glittering sand and sea, McClean was snowblind throughout the totality.

Now he swears by a new method: blindfolding himself throughout the first phases of the eclipse to maximize his experience of the totality. He says he doesn’t mind “skipping the previews if it means getting a better view of the film.” Afterward, he pops on some eye protection to see the partial phases of the eclipse as the moon pulls away from the sun. If you do blindfold yourself, just remember to set an alarm for the time when the total eclipse begins so you don’t miss its cross-country journey. You'll have to wait 28 years for your next chance.

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HBO
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Pop Culture
IKEA Publishes Instructions for Turning Rugs Into Game of Thrones Capes
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HBO

Game of Thrones is one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced, but even the crew of the hit HBO series isn’t above using an humble IKEA hack behind the scenes. According to Mashable, the fur capes won by Jon Snow and other members of the Night’s Watch on the show are actually sheepskin rugs sold by the home goods chain.

The story behind the iconic garment was first revealed by head costume designer Michele Clapton at a presentation at Los Angeles’s Getty Museum in 2016. “[It’s] a bit of a trick,” she said at Designing the Middle Ages: The Costumes of GoT. “We take anything we can.”

Not one to dissuade customers from modifying its products, IKEA recently released a cape-making guide in the style of its visual furniture assembly instructions. To start you’ll need one of their Skold rugs, which can be bought online for $79. Using a pair of scissors cut a slit in the material and make a hole where your head will go. Slip it on and you’ll look ready for your Game of Thrones debut.

The costume team makes a few more changes to the rugs used on screen, like shaving them, adding leather straps, and waxing and “frosting” the fur to give it a weather-worn effect. Modern elements are used to make a variety of the medieval props used in Game of Thrones. The swords, for example, are made from aircraft aluminum, not steel. For more production design insights, check out these behind-the-scenes secrets of Game of Thrones weapons artists.

[h/t Mashable]

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