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9 Reflective Facts About Chicago's Cloud Gate

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It’s a lucky coincidence that Chicago’s Cloud Gate arrived around the same time as the selfie. In addition to being the kind of recognizable landmark made for Instagram travelogues, the 66-foot-long, 33-foot-tall, 110-ton reflective sculpture invites tourists with its funhouse-like mirrors and curves. Mayor Richard M. Daley dedicated “The Bean,” as it’s been dubbed, on May 15, 2006. Here are nine facts you might not know about this already iconic public sculpture.

1. IT WON OUT OVER JEFF KOONS'S GIANT SLIDE.

In 1998, Daley announced plans to turn railyards and parking space along the city shoreline into what’s now Millennium Park. In addition to a garden, fountain, and performance stage, project design director Ed Uhlir sought a landmark sculpture for the space. A committee invited submissions from artists around the globe who had done major outdoor pieces. They narrowed down the selections to two: Cloud Gate from London-based Anish Kapoor and a giant functional playground slide, made of glass and steel, from New Yorker Jeff Koons. “He wanted an observation platform about 90 feet in the air, with a slide that would carry people down to grade,” recalls Uhlir. Because of both handicapped accessibility concerns and the ostentatiousness of the slide, the committee picked Kapoor’s idea.

2. KAPOOR WAS KNOWN FOR HIS BIOMORPHIC FORMS AND INSPIRED BY LIQUID MERCURY.

In the ’80s and ’90s, the Bombay-born sculptor had several exhibits of large geometric shapes made from materials like stone, aluminum, and resin. Perhaps his most notable prior work was Void Field, a walkable layout of rough sandstone blocks, each topped by an enigmatic black hole, shown at the Venice Biennale annual art competition in Italy. His 1995 stainless steel globe, titled Turning the World Inside Out, is a precursor to Cloud Gate, similarly polished to leave no seam or remnant of construction visible.

3. CLOUD GATE WAS BUILT WITH THE SKYLINE IN MIND.

“What I wanted to do in Millennium Park is make something that would engage the Chicago skyline,” said Kapoor, “so that one will see the clouds kind of floating in, with those very tall buildings reflected in the work. And then, since it is in the form of a gate, the participant, the viewer, will be able to enter into this very deep chamber that does, in a way, the same thing to one's reflection as the exterior of the piece is doing to the reflection of the city around.”

4. KAPOOR LEARNED TO MODEL WITH A COMPUTER.

In Anish Kapoor: Past, Present, Future, Nicholas Baume writes that until Cloud Gate, Kapoor modeled his work by hand. Later, the artist told Baume that planning the construction of seamless sculpture of that size required him to do “a great deal of computer modeling to analyze the form in order to make it well enough.”

5. CLOUD GATE WAS MADE IN CALIFORNIA.

Kapoor selected Performance Structures Inc. of Oakland, California, to fabricate Cloud Gate. The process took three years. Originally, PSI planned to assemble the entire object and ship it—via two oceans, the Panama Canal, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and Lake Michigan—to Chicago, but this was deemed unfeasible. So the company created a series of plates up to 7 feet wide, 11 feet long, and as heavy as 1500 pounds for another firm to assemble in Millennium Park. “We used computer technology to measure the plates and to accurately assess their shape and curvature so they would all fit together correctly,” PSI founder Ethan Silva said. The plates shipped in specialty containers, also made by PSI, to prevent them from being altered in transport.

6. IT SPENT ITS INFANCY IN A TENT.

While metalworkers polished Cloud Gate for its unique uninterrupted surface, the piece was hidden beneath a tent in Millennium Park for eight months in 2005.

7. IT’S CLEANED DAILY.

Every day, Cloud Gate accumulates sweat, grease, fingerprint grime, or shoe dirt from the myriad of visitors who touch it. Its cleaning schedule varies by season, but maintenance crews wipe the lower, touchable parts several times a day and often give it a power wash at night. Twice a year, the city bathes it in 40 gallons of Tide for a deep cleaning.

8. THERE IS AN APPARENT CHINESE COPYCAT SCULPTURE.

Last year, the Chinese town of Karamay unveiled a strikingly similar stainless steel statue. Kapoor is threatening to sue and trying to enlist legal help from the city of Chicago. A Karamay tourism official told the Wall Street Journal that the statue is meant to resemble an oil bubble. (Drilling is the town’s main industry.) “While we use similar materials, the shapes and meanings are different,” he added. Also: “Cloud Gate intends to reflect the sky, but ours reflects the ground.”

9. KAPOOR IS NOT FOND OF “THE BEAN” NICKNAME.

He once said it was “completely stupid.”

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King Features Syndicate
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Comics
10 Things You Might Not Know About Hägar the Horrible
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

For 45 years, the anachronistic adventures of a Scandinavian Viking named Hägar have populated the funny papers. Created by cartoonist Dik Browne, Hagar the Horrible is less about raiding and pillaging and more about Hägar’s domestic squabbles with wife Helga. If you’re a fan of this red-bearded savage with a surprisingly gentle demeanor, check out some facts about the strip’s history, Hägar’s status as a soda pitchman, and his stint as a college football mascot.

1. HÄGAR IS NAMED AFTER HIS CREATOR.

Richard Arthur “Dik” Browne got his start drawing courtroom sketches for New York newspapers; he debuted a military strip, Ginny Jeep, for servicemen after entering the Army in 1942. Following an advertising stint where he created the Chiquita Banana logo, he was asked to tackle art duties on the 1954 Beetle Bailey spinoff strip Hi and Lois. When he felt an urge to create his own strip in 1973, Browne thought back to how his children called him “Hägar the Horrible” when he would playfully chase them around the house. “Immediately, I thought Viking,” he told People in 1978. Hägar was soon the fastest-growing strip in history, appearing over 1000 papers.

2. HE COULD HAVE BEEN BULBAR THE BARBARIAN.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

Working on Hi and Lois with cartoonist Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey) gave Browne an opportunity to solicit advice on Hägar from his more experienced colleague. As Walker recalled, he thought “Hägar” would be too hard for people to pronounce or spell and suggested Browne go with “Bulbar the Barbarian” instead. Browne brushed off the suggestion, preferring his own alliterative title.

3. A HEART ATTACK COULD HAVE CHANGED HÄGAR’S FATE.

When Browne came up with Hägar, he sent it along to a syndicate editor he knew from his work on Hi and Lois. According to Chris Browne, Dik’s son and the eventual artist for Hägar after his father passed away in 1989, the man originally promised to look at it after he got back from his vacation. He changed his mind at the last minute, reviewing and accepting the strip before leaving. Just days later, while on his ski vacation, the editor had a heart attack and died. If he hadn’t approved the strip prior to his passing, Browne said, Hägar may never have seen print.

4. THE STRIP HELPED BROWNE AVOID VANDALS.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

Chris Browne recalled that Halloween in his Connecticut neighborhood was a time for kids to show their appreciation for his father’s work. While trick-or-treaters were busy covering nearby houses in toilet paper or spray paint, they spared the Browne residence. The only evidence of their vandalism was a spray-painted sign that read, “Mr. Browne, We Love Hägar.”

5. BROWNE’S DAUGHTER TALKED HIM OUT OF KIDNAPPING PLOTS.

Vikings were not known for being advocates for human rights. Hägar, despite his relatively genteel persona, still exhibited some barbaric traits, such as running off with “maidens” after a plundering session. Speaking with the Associated Press in 1983, Browne admitted he toned down the more lecherous side of Hägar after getting complaints from his daughter. “Running off with a maiden isn’t funny,” she told him. “It’s a crime.”

6. HÄGAR ENDORSED SODA.

A soda can featuring Hägar the Horrible
Amazon

Despite his preference for alcohol, Hägar apparently had a bit of a sweet tooth as well. In the 1970s, King Features licensed out a line of soda cans featuring some of their most popular comic strip characters, including Popeye, Blondie, and Hägar. The Viking also shilled for Mug Root Beer in the 1990s.

7. HE WAS A COLLEGE MASCOT.

In 1965, Cleveland State University students voted in the name “Vikings” for their collegiate basketball team. After using a mascot dubbed Viktorious Vike, the school adopted Hägar in the 1980s. Both Hägar and wife Helga appeared at several of the school’s sporting events before being replaced by an original character named Vike.

8. HE EVENTUALLY SOBERED UP.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

When Dik Browne was working on Hägar, the Viking was prone to bouts of excessive drinking. When Chris Browne took over the strip, he made a deliberate decision to minimize Hägar’s imbibing. "When my father was doing the strip, he did an awful lot of gags about Hägar falling down drunk and coming home in a wheelbarrow, and as times go on that doesn't strike me as that funny anymore,” Brown told the Chicago Tribune in 1993. “Just about everybody I know has had somebody hurt by alcoholism or substance abuse.”

9. HE HAD HIS OWN HANNA-BARBERA CARTOON.

It took some time, but Hägar was finally honored with the animated special treatment in 1989. Cartoon powerhouse Hanna-Barbera created the 30-minute special, Hägar the Horrible: Hägar Knows Best, and cast the Viking as being out of his element after returning home for the first time in years. The voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, performed the title character. It was later released on DVD as part of a comic strip cartoon collection.

10. HE SAILED INTO THE WIZARD OF ID.

A Wizard of Id comic strip
King Features Syndicate

In 2014, Hägar made an appearance in the late Johnny Hart’s Wizard of Id comic strip, with the two characters looking confused at the idea they’ve run into one another at sea. Hägar also made a cameo in Blondie to celebrate that character’s 75th birthday in 2005.

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Pop Chart Lab
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infographics
Every Emoji Ever, Arranged by Color
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

What lies at the end of the emoji rainbow? It's not a pot of gold, but rather an exclamation point—a fitting way to round out the Every Emoji Ever print created by the design experts over at Pop Chart Lab.

As the name suggests, every emoji that's currently used in version 10.0.0 of Unicode is represented, which, if you're keeping track, is nearly 2400.

Each emoji was painstakingly hand-illustrated and arranged chromatically, starting with yellow and ending in white. Unicode was most recently updated last summer, with 56 emojis added to the family. Some of the newest members of the emoji clan include a mermaid, a couple of dinosaurs, a UFO, and a Chinese takeout box. However, the most popular emoji last year was the "despairing crying face." Make of that what you will.

Past posters from Pop Chart Lab have depicted the instruments played in every Beatles song, every bird species in North America, and magical objects of the wizarding world. The price of the Every Emoji Ever poster starts at $29, and if you're interested, the piece can be purchased here.

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