CLOSE
11 Foot 8
11 Foot 8

8 Niche Blogs to Liven Your Day

11 Foot 8
11 Foot 8

With millions of people keeping blogs on the internet, I am faced with a never-ending treasure hunt for the strangest and most specific ones. If a topic is interesting to one blogger, it will probably be interesting to some readers. Or maybe none at all, but that never stopped us from posting them anyway. Here are the latest blogs focused on very specific subjects that are updated for your pleasure.  

1. We Put a Chip In It!

If you read the story about how easy it is for hackers to take control of your newfangled computerized car, you probably thought about the good old days when cars made it down the road without any computers at all aboard. If that’s the case, you’ll probably love the blog We Put a Chip In It! It’s a collection of the new hi-tech products that don’t need to be high-tech. Do we really need a trash can with sensors that tell it when to vacuum up what we’re already sweeping? Should our sex toys have apps? Must a herd of sheep be wifi-enabled? It’s to the point now where our simplest possessions are “smart,” which is a bit unsettling. The gadget pictured is a smart plate that analyzes the food you place on it.  

2. The Well-Appointed Desk

The Well-Appointed Desk is a blog that focuses on pens and pencils, and sometimes other office supplies. It’s not a corporate blog, although it gets advertising from some office suppliers. There are reviews of pens and pencils, history and trivia, links, and earlier this year, a glorious trip to the Atlanta Pen Show.

3. Dogs That Have Their Tongues Sticking Out a Little

The Tumblr blog Dogs that have their tongues sticking out a little is just what it says on the tin. You’ll find tons of dogs, all sizes and breeds, with their tongues sticking out a little. There are actually a few that have their tongue sticking out a lot. If you have such a picture of your dog, you are invited to submit it.

4. Feminist Lisa Frank

The content of the Tumblr blog Feminist Lisa Frank is artwork by ‘90s pop culture artist Lisa Frank (and occasionally other artists) overlaid with feminist thoughts and quotes. The image above contains a quote from Alice Walker. I heard that the artist, or her corporation, to be exact, is not all that happy with the site. 

5. Encyclopedia Of Hypothetical Police Procedurals

From the TV cop shows we’ve actually seen, Miami Vice, 21 Jump Street, Alien Nation, Law & Order: SVU, Axe Cop, etc. it appears that any police procedural will get on the air if it has a strange and different hook. The Encyclopedia Of Hypothetical Police Procedurals is a blog where such ideas run wild. For example, Low Self-esteem Cops centers around Detective Byron Thurber, who solves 95% of his cases but feels terrible about the rest. His partner leaves encouraging notes for him to find, pictured, while they continue to solve crimes. I'd watch it. 

6. Asshole Parents

Parents get blamed for every problem a kid has. Even when the problem is completely beyond our control. Even when the problem is completely caused by the child. Even when the problem is no problem at all. Parents have a place to vent, on a Tumblr blog called Asshole Parents, which was shared on my private parents group. Our kids are mostly teenagers, but believe me, we came up with a long list of reasons they consider us such. If you’ve ever expected your child to drink his favorite beverage from the wrong cup, you may be an asshole parent, too. The caption to the picture here is

Took my daughter on an African safari but I won’t let her play on her iPad so I’m an asshole. #assholeparent via @kristenhowerton

There are 181 submissions so far, and you are welcome to add yours. Some of my favorites are here.

7. Power Lines in Anime

Power Lines in Anime may be the most narrowly-focused blog I’ve seen yet. It consists of screenshots of power lines seen in the backgrounds of anime cartoons. The subject may be overly specific, but it’s not a small collection. There are already seven pages of such images.  

8. 11 Foot 8

There's a railroad trestle over Gregson Street in Durham, North Carolina, that has a clearance of only 11 feet, 8 inches. Truck drivers have been crashing into it since as early as 1956. In 2008, Jürgen Henn mounted a camera near the overpass to record any crashes. Despite warning signs and flashing lights, he didn’t have to wait long to record his first. The site 11 Foot 8 Videos is a repository of those videos. There have been between five and 15 new accidents each year caught on video in that one location. The above video shows the ten crashes that were recorded in 2010. Thirteen videos have been added in 2015 alone, and the year is only half over!

See more niche blogs in our previous posts

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
arrow
holidays
8 Legendary Monsters of Christmas
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The customs of the holiday season, which include St. Nicholas Day, New Years Day, and Epiphany, as well as Christmas, often incorporate earlier pagan traditions that have been appropriated and adapted for contemporary use. Customs that encourage little children to be good so as to deserve their Christmas gifts often come with a dark side: the punishment you'll receive from a monster or evil being of some sort if you aren't good! These nefarious characters vary from place to place, and they go by many different names and images.

1. KRAMPUS

As a tool to encourage good behavior in children, Santa serves as the carrot, and Krampus is the stick. Krampus is the evil demon anti-Santa, or maybe his evil twin. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. Alcohol is also involved. Injuries in recent years have led to some reforms, such as requiring all Krampuses to wear numbers so they may identified in case of overly violent behavior.

Krampus may look like a devil, or like a wild alpine beast, depending on what materials are available to make a Krampus costume. In modern times, people can spend as much as they like to become the best Krampus around—and the tradition is spreading beyond Europe. Many cities in America have their own Krampus Nights now.

2. JÓLAKÖTTURINN

Jólakötturinn is the Icelandic Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat. In fact, he might eat you. This character is tied to an Icelandic tradition in which those who finished all their work on time received new clothes for Christmas, while those who were lazy did not (although this is mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas—and these children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores! A poem written about the cat ends with a suggestion that children help out the needy, so they, too, can have the protection of new clothing. It's no wonder that Icelanders put in more overtime at work than most Europeans.

3. FRAU PERCHTA


Flickr // Markus Ortner

Tales told in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who hands out both rewards and punishments during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). She is best known for her gruesome punishment of the sinful: She will rip out your internal organs and replace them with garbage. The ugly image of Perchta may show up in Christmas processions in Austria, somewhat like Krampus.

Perchta's story is thought to have descended from a legendary Alpine goddess of nature, who tends the forest most of the year and deals with humans only during Christmas. In modern celebrations, Perchta or a close relation may show up in processions during Fastnacht, the Alpine festival just before Lent. There may be some connection between Frau Perchta and the Italian witch La Befana, but La Befana isn't really a monster: she's an ugly but good witch who leaves presents.

4. BELSNICKEL

A drawing of Belsnickel.
Lucas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Belsnickel is a male character from southwestern German lore who traveled to the United States and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch customs. He comes to children sometime before Christmas, wearing tattered old clothing and raggedy fur. Belsnickel carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. In modern visits, the switch is only used for noise, and to warn children they still have time to be good before Christmas. Then all the children get candy, if they are polite about it. The name Belsnickel is a portmanteau of the German belzen (meaning to wallop) and nickel for St. Nicholas. See a video of a Belsnickel visit here.

Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are similar characters from German folklore who dole out beatings to bad children, leaving St. Nicholas to reward good children with gifts.

5. HANS TRAPP

Hans Trapp is another "anti-Santa" who hands out punishment to bad children in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. The legend says that Trapp was a real man, a rich, greedy, and evil man, who worshiped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed—a punishment of his own from God. Still, he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.

6. PÈRE FOUETTARD

The French legend of Père Fouettard, whose name translates to "Father Whipper," begins with an evil butcher who craved children to eat. He (or his wife) lured three boys into his butcher shop, where he killed, chopped, and salted them. St. Nicholas came to the rescue, resurrected the boys, and took custody of the butcher. The captive butcher became Père Fouettard, St. Nicholas' servant whose job it is to dispense punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.

7. THE YULE LADS

The Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads, are 13 Icelandic trolls, who each have a name and distinct personality. In ancient times, they stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so they were used to scare children into behaving, like the Yule Cat. However, the 20th century brought tales of the benevolent Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus), who brought gifts to good children. The traditions became mingled, until the formerly devilish Jólasveinar became kind enough to leave gifts in shoes that children leave out ... if they are good boys and girls. 

8. GRÝLA

All the Yule Lads answer to Grýla, their mother. She predates the Yule Lads in Icelandic legend as the ogress who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children who don't obey their parents. She only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when she was assigned to be the mother of the Yule Lads. According to legend, Grýla had three different husbands and 72 children, all who caused trouble ranging from harmless mischief to murder. As if the household wasn't crowded enough, the Yule Cat also lives with Grýla. This ogress is so much of a troublemaker that The Onion blamed her for the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

A version of this post originally ran in 2013. See also: more Legendary Monsters

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Keystone/Getty Images
arrow
History
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.


A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.


Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.


New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.


American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.


Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.


Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios