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7 Ridiculous Products Licensed by Major League Baseball

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Last weekend the New York Times ran a really interesting article about Yankees Sod, a new product that's pretty much just what it sounds like: grass that's been licensed by the Bronx Bombers for sale to fans. The turf actually has a legitimate claim to being just like what's growing in the new Yankee Stadium; it comes from the same 80-acre plot as the grass that was recently installed in the House that Jeter Built. Now if you go to a New York-area Home Depot, you can pick up swatches of the very grass for around $7.50 for a five-square-foot patch.

To most casual fans, this idea seems patently absurd. By the strange logic of Major League Baseball product licensing, though, there's nothing odd about it. In fact, it might not even be the most ludicrous or unnecessary thing an MLB team has licensed. Here are a few other currently available products that at least give Yankees Sod a run for its money in the ridiculousness department.

1. Wincraft Chicago Cubs 5 Quart Galvanized Pail

At some point in his career, every dairy owner runs into the same problem: his cows just don't know what MLB team to cheer for. This galvanized milk bucket quickly answers the question for any confused bovines. Well worth the $15.99 asking price.

Still not convinced? Check out this sales pitch from MLB.com: "They have a waterproof sealed bottom and are great for holding ice, water, dirt, or anything else you would like to carry or hold in these great decorative pail." I'm willing to overlook the singular/plural confusion here, but really, MLB? That's your selling point for a bucket? That it won't leak and you can put stuff in it? Why not just cut to the chase? "This is a bucket. It's just like every other bucket you've ever seen, but with a Cubs logo on the side and more expensive."

2. Fleer New York Mets B2 Stealth Bomber

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You want your kid to play with sports toys, but he loves military ones. What to do? In years past, you probably would have had to send him to live with his grandparents, but now there's room for a compromise! For just $25, you can purchase a die-cast stealth bomber replica covered with Mets logos. There's apparently no underlying logic that ties the team and the plane together, so this novelty is just a sublime bit of licensing absurdity. Really, if Mets fans want to talk about something quiet, fast, and awesomely destructive, they can just recall the team's 2008 bullpen.

3. Baltimore Orioles Father's Day Mr. Potato Head

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Father's Day gifts are tough. Most dads are difficult to shop for, and once you buy the gift, you always worry you've picked out the wrong thing. Remove all of that uncertainty by buying Dad something he definitely won't like. Say, a Mr. Potato Head decked out in Baltimore Orioles gear.

Plunk down $25 and you can get not only your favorite baseball-playing tuber, but also a set of Topps baseball cards of the 2008 Orioles team. This way, your dad will never forget that magical 68-93 season.

4. Caskets and Crematory Urns

pirates-casket.jpgHas a lifetime of being a Pirates fan not been quite enough for you? Now you can take your frustration into the afterlife with a series of MLB-licensed funerary products from Eternal Image, Inc. Since early 2007, the company has been selling MLB-themed urns, and towards the end of 2008, it introduced its first run of MLB caskets. They sold out within a week. The urns, which have an MSRP of $799, come with a baseball as part of the display, although the product's website notes that the family can replace the ball with one from their collection. Just don't take the ball down and play with it; that's a one-way ticket to a haunting.

5. Garden Gnomes

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Wish your garden could show a little more team spirit? Forever Collectibles makes a line of lawn gnomes whose hats feature MLB logos. At this point, fans of certain downtrodden teams will take any luck they can get, so enlisting magical creatures like gnomes might not be a bad idea. (Note to Padres fans: No, you don't already have a gnome. That's David Eckstein, and he's playing second base for the team this season.)

6. ProMark Arizona Diamondbacks Level and Hammer

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When Brandon Webb does home improvement projects, do you think he uses just any old tools? Of course not. If he's got any team loyalty, he picks up his special 10-inch Diamondbacks level and matching hammer before he even starts working. For around $40, you can outfit your own toolbox with the same gear. The grips even look like baseballs. And if that's not enough, the hammer description offers more poetry from MLB.com. "The comfortable molded rubber grip is designed to fit the sport." What sport, baseball or competitive hammering?

7. Team Sports America Cleveland Indians Forest Face

You know what's terrible? Forests. You can blab all you want about the natural beauty of trees and how nothing could possibly improve on their magnificence, but we all know that's bunk. Every tree would be significantly improved if it had a human face and a Cleveland Indians cap on its trunk. Then it would look like people!

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Consider this problem solved. MLB.com will sell you a "forest face" that will allow you to put a mouth, a nose, a pair of eyes, and a team cap on a tree's trunk. MLB.com does not, however, explain to you why you want to enter into this endeavor in the first place.

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DreamWorks
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entertainment
15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
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DreamWorks

An urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after they see it turns out to be true. To her increasing horror, reporter Rachel Keller (then-newcomer Naomi Watts) discovers this after her niece is one of four teenage victims, and is in a race against the clock to uncover the mystery behind the girl in the video before her and her son’s time is up.

Released 15 years ago, on October 18, 2002, The Ring began a trend of both remaking Japanese horror films in a big way, and giving you nightmares about creepy creatures crawling out of your television. Here are some facts about the film that you can feel free to pass along to anybody, guilt-free.

1. DREAMWORKS BOUGHT THE AMERICAN RIGHTS TO RINGU FOR $1 MILLION.

There were conflicting stories over how executive producer Roy Lee came to see the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, Hideo Nakata's adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki. Lee said two different friends gave him a copy of Ringu in January 2001, which he loved and immediately gave to DreamWorks executive Mark Sourian, who agreed to purchase the rights. But Lee’s close friend Mike Macari worked at Fine Line Features, which had an American remake of Ringu in development before January 2001. Macari said he showed Lee Ringu much earlier. Macari and Lee were both listed as executive producers for The Ring.

2. THE DIRECTOR FIRST SAW RINGU ON A POOR QUALITY VHS TAPE, WHICH ADDED TO ITS CREEPINESS.

Gore Verbinski had previously directed MouseHunt. He said the first time he "watched the original Ringu was on a VHS tape that was probably seven generations down. It was really poor quality, but actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape." Naomi Watts struggled to find a VHS copy of Ringu while shooting in the south of Wales. When she finally got a hold of one she watched it on a very small TV alone in her hotel room. "I remember being pretty freaked out," Watts said. "I just saw it the once, and that was enough to get me excited about doing it."

3. THE RING AND RINGU ARE ABOUT 50 PERCENT DIFFERENT.

Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

Verbinski estimated that, for the American version, they "changed up to 50 percent of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child." Storylines involving the characters having ESP, a volcano, “dream logic,” and references to “brine and goblins” were taken out.

4. IT RAINED ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN THEY FILMED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.

The weather added to the “atmosphere of dread,” according to the film's production notes. Verbinski said the setting allowed them to create an “overcast mood” of dampness and isolation.

5. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER WAS INFLUENCED BY ANDREW WYETH.

Artist Andrew Wyeth tended to use muted, somber earth tones in his work. "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones," explained production designer Tom Duffield. "It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."

6. THERE WERE RINGS EVERYWHERE.

The carpeting and wallpaper patterns, the circular kitchen knobs, the doctor’s sweater design, Rachel’s apartment number, and more were purposely designed with the film's title in mind.

7. WATTS AND MARTIN HENDERSON HAD A FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY.

Martin Henderson and Naomi Watts star in 'The Ring' (1992)
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

The New Zealand-born Henderson played Noah, Rachel’s ex-husband. Since Watts is from Australia, Henderson said that, "Between takes, we'd joke around with each other's accents and play into the whole New Zealand-Australia rivalry."

8. THE TWO WEREN’T SURE IF THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE SCARY ENOUGH.

After shooting some of the scenes, and not having the benefit of seeing what they'd look like once any special effects were added, Henderson and Watts worried that the final result would not be scary enough. "There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, 'This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh,'" Henderson told the BBC." You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you're going to look like an idiot!"

9. CHRIS COOPER WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

Cooper played a child murderer in two scenes which were initially meant to bookend the film. He unconvincingly claimed to Rachel that he found God in the beginning, and in the end she gave him the cursed tape. Audiences at test screenings were distracted that an actor they recognized disappears for most of the film, so he was cut out entirely.

10. THEY TRIED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THE SHADOWS.

Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli used the lack of sunlight in Washington to remove the characters’ shadows. The two wanted to keep the characters feeling as if “they’re floating a little bit, in space.”

11. THE TREE WAS NICKNAMED "LUCILLE."

The red Japanese maple tree in the cursed video was named after the famous redheaded actress Lucille Ball. The tree was fake, built out of steel tubing and plaster. The Washington wind blew it over three different times. The night they put up the tree in Los Angeles, the wind blew at 60 miles per hour and knocked Lucille over yet again. "It was very strange," said Duffield.

12. MOESKO ISLAND IS A FUNCTIONING LIGHTHOUSE.

Moesko Island Lighthouse is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Yaquina River, a mile west of Agate Beach, Oregon. The website Rachel checks, MoeskoIslandLighthouse.com, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.

13. A WEBSITE WAS CREATED BY DREAMWORKS TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE AND ADD TO ITS MYTHOLOGY.

Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into AnOpenLetter.com, you could read a message in white lettering against a black background warning about what happens if you watch the cursed video (you can read it here). By November 24, 2002, it was a standard official website made for the movie, set up by DreamWorks.

14. VERBINSKI DIDN’T HAVE FUN DIRECTING THE MOVIE.

“It’s no fun making a horror film," admitted Verbinski. "You get into some darker areas of the brain and after a while everything becomes a bit depressing.”

15. DAVEIGH CHASE SCARED HERSELF.

Daveigh Chase in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

When Daveigh Chase, who played Samara, saw The Ring in theaters, she had to cover her eyes out of fear—of herself. Some people she met after the movie came out were also afraid of her.

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
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Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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