Repairing centuries of damage to the Great Wall of China is no easy task. (Which, of course, makes sense when you consider that the wall took more than 1800 years to erect.) Since 2005, workers have carried out grueling—and often, life-threatening—physical labor to see that the World Wonder is restored to the same tiptop shape it was in during the Ming dynasty.
Most recently, restoration efforts have been focused on the Jiankou section of the wall. The re-bricking process requires that workers dangle from a single rope, held by their teammates, while they coat the wall in cement. The faintest slip of the hand could cost them their lives.
As if the physical demands weren't enough, the laborers are also burdened with the responsibility of maintaining historical accuracy. Last year, preservationists were outraged by the "botched" repairs made to the Great Wall in northeast China. "A once unkempt, haunting 700-year-old stretch of the wall now looks like a cement skateboarding lane dumped in the wilderness," The New York Timeswrote at the time.
New video footage from Live China—and spotted by National Geographic—gives an up-close view of this physically demanding work, as well as the process of transporting bricks via donkeys and mules. You can watch it in full below:
With their raucous mix of rock and hip-hop, the Beastie Boys were a band everyone could love. They also made killer music videos, and their 1994 video for “Sabotage” is arguably one of the greatest in the history of the medium. Directed by Spike Jonze and inspired by ‘70s cop shows, “Sabotage” finds the Beasties in cheesy suits, wigs, and mustaches, cavorting around L.A. like a bunch of bootleg Starskys and Hutches. If you were alive in the ‘90s, you’ve seen “Sabotage” a million times, but there’s a lot you might not know about this iconic video.
1. It all began with a photo shoot.
Spike Jonze met the Beastie Boys when he photographed them for Dirt magazine in the early 1990s. The band showed up with its own concept. “For years, Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz had been talking about doing a photo session as undercover cops—wearing ties and fake mustaches and sitting in a car like we were on a stakeout,” Adam “MCA” Yauch toldNew York Magazine. Jonze loved the idea so much he tagged along when the Beasties went wig shopping. “Then, while he was taking the pictures, he was wearing this blond wig and mustache the whole time,” Yauch said. “For no apparent reason.” So was born a friendship that begat “Sabotage.”
2. Spike Jonze filmed “Sabotage” without permits.
The Beasties weren’t big fans of high-budget music videos with tons of people on the set. So they asked Jonze to hire a couple of assistants and run the whole production out of a van. “Then we just ran around L.A. without any permits and made everything up as we went along,” MCA toldNew York. They’re lucky the real cops never showed up.
3. The Beastie Boys did all their own stunt driving.
After binge-watching VHS tapes of The Streets of San Francisco and other ‘70s cop shows, the Beasties knew they needed some sweet chase scenes. “We bought a car that was about to die,” Mike D toldVanity Fair. “We just drove the car ourselves. We almost killed the car a couple of times, but we definitely didn’t come close to killing ourselves.”
4. “Sabotage” inspired the opening sequence of Trainspotting.
Danny Boyle's 1996 film Trainspotting famously opens with Ewan McGregor and his buddies running through the streets of Edinburgh to the tune of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life.” In the DVD commentary, Boyle revealed that the scene was inspired by “Sabotage.”
5. Two cameras were harmed in the making of “Sabotage.”
“Sabotage” was supposed to be a low-budget affair—and it would’ve been, had Jonze been a little more careful with his rented cameras. He destroyed a Canon Scoopic when the Ziploc bag he used to protect the camera during an underwater shot proved less than airtight. He apparently told the rental agency the camera stopped working on its own, but he wasn’t as lucky when an Arriflex SR3 fell out of a van window. That cost $84,000, effectively tripling the cost of the video.
6. MCA crashed the stage of the MTV Video Music Awards to protest “Sabotage” being shut out.
At the 1994 MTV VMAs, “Sabotage” was nominated for five awards, including Video of the Year. In one of the great injustices of all time, it lost in all five categories. When R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” won Best Direction, MCA invaded the stage dressed as Nathanial Hörnblowér, his Swiss uncle/filmmaker alter-ego. “Since I was a small boy, I had dreamed that Spike would win this,” MCA said as a confused Michael Stipe looked on. “Now this has happened, and I want to tell everyone this is a farce, and I had the ideas for Star Wars and everything.”
7. There’s a “Sabotage” comic book you can download for free.
After MCA’s death in 2012, artist Derek Langille created a seven-page “Sabotage” comic book in tribute to the fallen musician and filmmaker. You can download it for free here.
8. There’s also a “Sabotage” novel.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Sabotage,” Oakland-based author and Beasties super-fan Jeff Gomez wrote a five-act novel inspired by the video. He spent months researching cop movies and real-life police lingo, and he watched “Sabotage” about 100 times, keeping a detailed spreadsheet of all the action unfolding onscreen. “They created a really great universe, and I just wanted to play around in it for a little bit,” Gomez told PBS.
9. There’s a “Sabotage”/Sesame Street mashup on YouTube.
In 2017, YouTuber Is This How You Go Viral, a.k.a. Adam Schleichkorn, created the video “Sesametage,” a reimagining of “Sabotage” made with edited bits of Sesame Street. It stars Big Bird as himself, The Count as Cochese, and Oscar the Grouch as Bobby, “The Rookie.” Super Grover, Telly, Cookie Monster, and Bert and Ernie also turn up in this hilarious spoof of a spoof.
10. “Sabotage” nearly became a movie—kind of.
Jonze and the Beasties had such a blast making “Sabotage” that they wrote a script for a feature film called We Can Do This. The movie, which they later abandoned, was set to feature MCA in two roles: Sir Stuart Wallace, one of his “Sabotage” characters, and Nathaniel Hörnblowér (whom he portrayed during that 1994 VMAs protest). Jonze told IndieWire the film would’ve been “ridiculous and fun,” which sounds like the understatement of the century. “There were no 1970s cops in it, but it was definitely in the same spirit,” he said.
Blustery days are finally replacing balmy ones, and that means the holidays are almost here. From booking Thanksgiving airline tickets to buying heartfelt holiday gifts, it’s easy to find yourself a little short on both time and money. In other words: ’tis the season for budgets.
In the latest episode of Scatterbrained, presented by Discover, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy and friends will walk you through some tips and tricks to help you make a budget—and stick to it.
In addition to learning how to break down your paychecks into categories and knock out your to-do list efficiently, you’ll also delve into the history behind budgets—which didn’t always relate to financial planning. (When William Shakespeare used the word budget in The Winter’s Tale, for example, he was referring to a small purse.)
Find out more—including the surprising thing you have in common with squirrels—in the full video below.