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Weekend Links: Ornamental Hermits

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Yes the time for fireworks has passed us, but seriously, save this video link from Cindy of fireworks in Iceland, play it on a big screen next year, and that's all you'll need! According to a companion article, the evening starts out with bonfires all over town, and of the 200,000 or so people in the area, each household spends between one and five hundred USD to light up the sky.
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For those who might have missed the news clip of the skeleton found in St James Park outside of Buckingham Palace, check out this story from James about how it was at one time fashionable for an ornamental hermit to live in the park (much like in the Victorian Era when having a tramp by one's doorstep was seen as a little folly of potentially magical means).
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Do you still have your baby teeth saved somewhere? Or an extracted tooth? What if you had a sculpture filled with old teeth? Not for the weak of stomach, one dentist has turned teeth into art in his waiting room.
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It would not be a Weekend Links post without some kind of photography, and this weekend I bring you the very best of the best: the National Geographic Photo Contest of 2011!
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As it's the beginning of January, the gyms are packed with resolute individuals. And if you are one of them, or looking for some inspiration to finish jogging that 1 mile (um that would be me), tell yourself "Buck up, it's not so bad! Compared to the woman who rowed the ocean, anyway."
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Alma is a creepy little short film by ex-Pixar animator Rodrigo Blaas. It's only about five minutes long, but I would love to see it as a feature!
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Should have posted this last weekend, but, I only saw it a few days ago and thought it should be shared anyway: the Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2011. Some very, very cool stuff is featured.
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This WWI cartoon might not tell you anything new, but there's something quite engaging about its simplicity and characterizations.
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More links tomorrow! In the meantime, send your submissions to FlossyLinks@gmail.com, or drop me a link or a line on Twitter.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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