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The Weekend Links

Everyone is getting tired of year-end lists I know, but this one is worth it. Truly stunning, and mostly heartbreaking, Boston.com has compiled some of its very best photos from 2009 into a 3-part post that reminds you of the good and bad of this past year, and best of all ... no Jon and Kate.
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If all these year-end lists have you thinking you know just about everything there is to know about 2009, take this quiz and find out! (much harder than I was expecting!)
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From Hannah, a video of an improv group that holds a quick bell choir performance with a Salvation Army bell ringer. Isn't that better than just the high-pitched tinkling?
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You may be familiar with the phrases "snafu" or "son of a gun," but did you know that these and other phrases originated on the battlefield? That's the scuttlebutt, anyway!
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I should have only picked one, but I just couldn't. I found several related links full of amazing pictures, so in the spirit of giving, I am giving you all three! The first showcases 8 Showy Snow Sculptures, followed by some Extreme Christmas Decorations, and then rounding out the list are 9 Gorgeous Gingerbread Creations. May this motivate someone to achieve holiday greatness this year in one of these categories (if you do, send a pic!)
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Have yourself a ... creepy little Christmas? Revisiting some of the lyrics of popular Christmas songs.
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10 notable mustaches and the men behind them. My trusted mustache connoisseur friend Pat says of this list, "well there are a lot of fantastic mustaches left out, but this list does include Nietzsche, so I feel it's legit."
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A recent Vanity Fair article explored our growing cultural addiction toward the cute, and its downsides. I'm sure website like this one of tiny cute baby animals doesn't help, BUT ...

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If you need to learn how to communicate with your tween cousin during family time during the holidays, you may need the aid of this English-to-12-Year-Old-AOLer Translator. To give you an example, I put in the Shakespeare quote, "A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool," which translated to "A FOL THINKS HIMS3LF 2 B WIES BUT A WIES MAN KNOWS HIMS3LF 2 B A FOL!!!1111" Scary, no?
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In other translation news and views, check out this "English" song sung by Italians. It's complete gibberish (but then again, so are so many songs), but it's meant to convey our phonetic sounds. The results are intriguing to say the least!
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If you are suddenly filled with patriotic pride, check out this very cool USA heart featuring all the states (they're all there, right? Did anyone count?)
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You may be dreaming of a white Christmas, but maybe not a white bridal gown. Here are some inspired weddings full of color to prove that not all successful bridal gowns must be white. (I would however avoid the scarlet red ones ... that just seems to send such a wrong message ...!)
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For those looking for motivation to exercise more regularly in the winter months, see how you measure up to Modern Fitness Standards for jobs like firefighters and police officers, and even on up in difficulty to marines (if you dare!)
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Forget Not Where Thy Petrol Floweth From! A funny and somewhat though provoking cartoon.
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Twitter is occasionally used for good, but more often than not it's used for nonsense. In one of the most ultimate examples, a best man at a wedding pulls a prank that rigs up his friend's honeymoon mattress to tweet the, er, consummation. Pretty funny stuff, although undoubtedly horrifying for the couple!
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I am a big fan of re-purposing, so I particularly like this simple tutorial on how to turn a shirt into a skirt (this is also handy for the Walk of Shame crowd).
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Some of those images of the Google logo on the Google homepage don't always look a lot like, well, Google. Here's a gallery of some of the most obscure drawings of the logo to date.
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Finally, from Flossy reader Doug, "this is a Christmas related musical I made for my family last year. I do one every year." I'm not exactly sure what to make of this, so I give it all to you. It clearly took a lot of time, this I know for sure!
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Thanks to everyone who sent in links this week - in the spirit of giving, give me some links! Send them along to FlossyLinks@gmail.com. Stay warm!

[Last Weekend's Links]

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15 Things You Might Not Know About Chewbacca
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images

Even if you don't know the name Peter Mayhew, you surely know about Chewbacca—the seven-foot tall Wookiee he has played onscreen for over three decades. In honor of Mayhew’s birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about Han Solo's BFF.

1. HE WAS INSPIRED BY GEORGE LUCAS'S DOG.

The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’s big, hairy Alaskan malamute, Indiana. According to Lucas, the dog would always sit in the passenger seat of his car like a copilot, and people would confuse the dog for an actual person. And in case you're wondering: yes, that same dog was also the inspiration behind the name of one of Lucas’s other creations, Indiana Jones.

2. HIS NAME IS OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN.

The name “Chewbacca” was derived from the Russian word Sobaka (собака), meaning “dog.” The term “Wookiee” came from voice actor Terry McGovern; when he was doing voiceover tracks for Lucas's directorial debut, THX 1138, McGovern randomly improvised the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookiee” during one of the sessions.

3. HE'S REALLY, REALLY OLD.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Chewbacca is 200 years old.

4. PETER MAYHEW'S HEIGHT HELPED HIM LAND THE ROLE.

Peter Mayhew
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Mayhew was chosen to play everyone’s favorite Wookiee primarily because of his tremendous height: He's 7 feet 3 inches tall.

5. HIS SUIT IS MADE FROM A MIX OF ANIMAL HAIRS, AND EVENTUALLY INCLUDED A COOLING SYSTEM.

For the original trilogy (and the infamous holiday special), the Chewbacca costume was made with a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a base of mohair. A slightly altered original Chewie costume was used in 1999's The Phantom Menace for the Wookiee senator character Yarua, and a new costume used during Episode III included a specially made water-cooling system so that Mayhew could wear the suit for long periods of time and not be overheated.

6. ONE OF STANLEY KUBRICK'S CLOSEST CREATORS DESIGNED THE COSTUME.

Chewbacca's costume
Getty Images

To create the original costume for Chewbacca, Lucas hired legendary makeup supervisor Stuart Freeborn, who was recruited because of his work on the apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Freeborn had also previously worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove to effectively disguise Peter Sellers in each of his three roles in that film.) Freeborn would go on to supervise the creation of Yoda in The Empire Strike Back and Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.

Lucas originally wanted Freeborn’s costume for Chewie to be a combination of a monkey, a dog, and a cat. According to Freeborn, the biggest problem during production with the costume was with Mayhew’s eyes. The actor’s body heat in the mask caused his face to detach from the costume's eyes and made them look separate from the mask.

7. FINDING CHEWBACCA'S VOICE WAS BEN BURTT'S FIRST ASSIGNMENT.

The first sound effect that director George Lucas hired now-legendary sound designer Ben Burtt for on Star Wars was Chewbacca’s voice (this was all the way back during the script stage). During the year of preliminary sound recording, Burtt principally used the vocalization of a black bear named Tarik from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California for Chewbacca. He would eventually synchronize those sounds with further walrus, lion, and badger vocalizations for the complete voice. The name of the language Chewbacca speaks came to be known in the Star Wars universe as “Shyriiwook.”

8. ROGER EBERT WAS NOT A FAN.

Roger Ebert was not a fan of the big guy. In his 1997 review of the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, Ebert basically called Chewbacca the worst character in the series. “This character was thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp," the famed critic wrote. "Much more could have been done. How can you be a space pilot and not be able to communicate in any meaningful way? Does Han Solo really understand Chewie's monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes? Never mind.”

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY MUCH MORE SCANTILY CLAD.

In the summary for Lucas’s second draft (dated January 28, 1975, when the film was called “Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars”), Chewbacca is described as “an eight-foot tall, savage-looking creature resembling a huge gray bushbaby-monkey with fierce ‘baboon’-like fangs. His large yellow eyes dominate a fur-covered face … [and] over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, a flak jacket painted in a bizarre camouflage pattern, brown cloth shorts, and little else.”

10. HIS DESIGN WAS BASED ON RALPH MCQUARRIE'S CONCEPT ART.

Chewbacca’s character design was based on concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had originally given McQuarrie a photo of a lemur for inspiration, and McQuarrie proceeded to draw the character as a female—but Chewbacca was soon changed to a male. McQuarrie based his furry design on an illustration by artist John Schoenherr, which was commissioned for Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin’s short story “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Sharp-eyed Chewbacca fans will recognize that Schoenherr’s drawing even includes what resembles the Wookiee’s signature weapon, the Bowcaster.

11. HE WON A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.

Fans were angry for decades that Chewie didn’t receive a medal of valor like Luke and Han did at the end of A New Hope, so MTV gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. The medal was given to Mayhew—decked out in full costume—by Princess Leia herself, actress Carrie Fisher. His acceptance speech, made entirely in Wookiee grunts, lasted 16 seconds. When asked why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the first film, Lucas explained, “Medals really don’t mean much to Wookiees. They don’t really put too much credence in them. They have different kinds of ceremonies.”

12. HE HAS A FAMILY BACK HOME.

According to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Chewbacca had a wife named Mallatobuck, a son named Lumpawaroo (a.k.a. “Lumpy”), and a father named Attichitcuk (aka “Itchy”). In the special, Chewie and Han visit the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” a celebration of the Wookiee home planet’s diverse ecosystem. The special featured appearances and musical numbers by Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur, and marked the first appearance of Boba Fett. Lucas hated the special so much that he limited its availability following its original airdate on November 17, 1978.

13. MAYHEW'S BIG FEET ARE WHAT KICKSTARTED HIS CAREER.

Mayhew’s path to playing Chewbacca began with a string of lucky breaks—and his big feet. A local London reporter was doing a story on people with big feet and happened to profile Mayhew. A movie producer saw the article and cast him—in an uncredited role—as Minoton the minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on Sinbad was also working on the Wookiee costume with Stuart Freeborn for Star Wars and suggested to the producers that they screen test Mayhew. The rest is Wookiee history.

14. MAYHEW KEPT HIS DAY JOB WHILE SHOOTING STAR WARS.

Peter Mayhew
Getty Images

During the shooting of Star Wars, Mayhew kept working his day job as a deputy head porter in a London hospital. Though he was let go because of his sudden varying shooting schedule at Elstree Studios, he was eventually hired back after production wrapped.

15. DARTH VADER COULD HAVE BEEN CHEWBACCA.

Darth Vader
Getty Images

David Prowse, the 6’5” actor who ended up portraying Darth Vader—in costume only—originally turned down the role of Chewbacca.  When given the choice between portraying the two characters, Prowse said, “I turned down the role of Chewbacca at once. I know that people remember villains longer than heroes. At the time I didn’t know I’d be wearing a mask, and throughout production I thought Vader’s voice would be mine.”

Additional Sources: Star Wars DVD special features
The Making of Star Wars: The definitive Story Behind the Original Film, J.W. Rinzler

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