50 Amazing Skills You Can Learn on YouTube

iStock.com/Ermolenko
iStock.com/Ermolenko

We at Mental Floss are always eager to learn new things and develop new skills. If you resolved to pick up a new hobby this year or just need to finally figure out how to do some home repairs on your own, we have you covered. Here, we've collected 50 YouTube tutorials that will give you all the basics to learn both the fun (like poker or calligraphy) and the practical (like CPR or how to clean a cast iron pan). Happy learning!

1. How To Whistle With Your Fingers

This one definitely takes some practice, but it will come in handy should you ever need to hail a cab, call a dog, or get someone's attention from afar. The video shows you exactly how to position your mouth in order to get that perfect whistle.

2. How To Unclog A Kitchen Sink

For everyday clogs, you can often avoid the plumber by putting chemistry to good use. The principles Pan the Organizer uses here are the same that made your volcano bubble over at the elementary school science fair—baking soda and white vinegar, plus some heavy helpings of boiling water. It's a method that's great for people short on time, patience, or tolerance for plumber's crack.

3. How To Make Kombucha

Kombucha may seem complicated, but with a little know-how, it's actually one of the easiest drinks to make at home. All you need is a SCOBY (a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast, the kombucha starter that is also sometimes called "the mother"), tea bags, sugar, water, and a big jar. Follow the recipe, set it out of the way, and watch it ferment for anywhere between one and four weeks before bottling and refrigerating it.

4. How To Speed-Read

If you made a resolution to read more books this year, then this is the tutorial for you. Memory expert Ron White highlights a few techniques you can use to double, triple, or even quadruple your reading speed. One of the tips is to stop sub-vocalizing, or reading to yourself in your head using "silent speech." A bit of Bach in the background doesn't hurt, either.

5. How To Remove A Stain From A Couch Or Carpet

Stains are a fact of life, but watching Oprah's method for removing them in this Vanity Fair video makes them a little easier to bear—and remove. Her secret involves several doses of club soda, which loosens the stain and makes it bubble up, followed by a modest application of dishwashing detergent. You'll not only learn a handy trick here, but you get to watch Oprah's face light up with glee as she watches the club soda do the job. Who doesn't love bubbles?

6. How To Build A Campfire

Grab your tinder, kindling, and fuel wood and let this video from REI show you how to build a great campfire. Along with teaching you how to build a classic "teepee-style" fire, the instructor also explains the "log cabin technique" and the "pyramid technique." These two types of long-lasting campfires require minimal attention, giving you extra time to eat an another s'more.

7. How To Do A Cartwheel

For the young at heart who want to frolick and flip in the meadows come spring (or, just teach some kids a skill you never quite mastered), a cartwheel is a far more attainable gymnastic goal than, say, a back handspring. Warm up with some stretches, and then follow these instructions on how to find your dominant side, where to place your feet and arms, and how to begin straightening your legs so there's some semblance of grace.

8. How To Remove A Red Wine Stain

First, blot as much of the liquid out of the stain as possible. Then, pour cool water on the fabric, followed by a generous pour of salt. Next, take boiling water and pour that over the stain. Let it sit for a while. If that doesn't do the trick, mix one part vinegar and two parts water, soaking the stain in that solution. Toss it in the wash to make it good as new. Then, pour yourself another glass of red.

9. How To Fix A Candle With A Buried Wick

If you can't light your favorite candle because the wick has gotten buried by wax, it's relatively easy to fix the issue. All you have to do, according to eHow Home, is heat up the candle with a torch or other heat source (a hair dryer will work, as long as you watch out for splash) so that the top layer of wax melts. Then pour off the hot wax to reveal the lost wick. Keep heating the candle until you've melted and poured out enough wax to expose a significant piece of wick. You can use tweezers or another tool to straighten out the wick and then re-light the candle.

10. How To Say "Hello" In Nearly 50 Languages

You might already know namaste and konnichiwa, but what about zdravo, ahoj, or annyeong? Let Lingualizer be your guide to cross-cultural greetings in 46 different languages. Whether you're planning a trip around the world or just want to impress at a party, this two-minute tutorial will help you make friends no matter where you go.

11. How To Change A Tire

Sometimes you need to be your own roadside assistance, which is why Howdini's quick and simple tutorial on how to get back on track after a flat tire is a must-watch. You’ll not only learn how to mount a spare, but how to do it safely and without risking injury from passing traffic.

12. How To Tie A Tie

Never fear another formal event with this guide to tying a necktie with a simple knot. Only four steps—behind, across, out, and through—need to be mastered. After only minimal practice, you should easily be able execute a knot in less than 10 seconds.

13. How To Cut An Onion (Without Crying)

There's no need to break out the industrial goggles every time you chop onions. It is possible to prepare the ingredient without weeping all over your cutting board—you just need to know which part of the pungent veggie to avoid.

14. How To Survive A Shark Attack

In the exceedingly rare, infinitesimally small chance that you could be attacked by a shark, Joe Bereta of Epic How To has a few tips. First, avoidance is key: keep out of the water at night, don't swim near river deltas where sharks like to hunt small fish, and never go swimming in Florida's open waters. If you do encounter a shark, stay calm, remain vertical in the water (it's more difficult to bite you that way), and move quickly toward shore. If the shark isn't getting the hint, bonk it on the nose with a rock or your fist and just get the hell out of there.

15. How To Clean A Cast Iron Pan

Cooking great food with a cast iron pan is easy. It's the part that comes after the meal that scares many home cooks away from owning this essential piece of kitchen equipment. Unlike some other pans, you can't stick a dirty cast iron skillet in the dishwasher. Scrubbing it with soap will damage the pan's layer of seasoning, and letting it sit around wet can cause it to rust. Fortunately, when you know how to clean and season a cast iron pan (rub it down with a mild oil, like flaxseed or vegetable oil—not olive oil!), maintaining one isn't so intimidating.

16. How To Make A Bed Properly

Ever wonder how hotels manage to make their bed sheets look so perfect? It's a skill you can easily master with this HGTV primer on creating a Four Seasons-ready bedding ensemble, including how do a proper "hospital corner" tuck at the foot of the bed. You'll even learn the secret for having crisp, wrinkle-free sheets. (Hint: It's not ironing.)

17. How To Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

Have you ever tried to boil an egg and ended up with a squishy, sulfurous mess? Tasty is here to help. Place eggs in a saucepot, cover completely with water, and bring to a full boil. Then remove the pot from the heat and cover with a lid. Timing is important: For soft boiled eggs, keep the pot covered for 4 to 6 minutes; for medium-hard, 8 to 10 minutes, and for hard, 14 to 16 minutes. Then, pop them in a quick icebath to make peeling easier, and enjoy!

18. How To Make A Simple Bouquet

Want to add a personal touch to a romantic gift? Flowers are always welcome—but a gorgeous bouquet, crafted with your own two hands (and creative abilities) is even better. Prep the flower and filler greens by stripping the stems of any thorns or excess leaves, arrange in three equal bunches with the focal flowers supported by the accent greens, and then bind the three bunches together with string. This clip even shows how to wrap your bouquet in brown paper for that straight-from-the-farmers'-market look. It's a skill that will come in handy on Mother's Day, anniversaries, birthdays, and beyond.

19. How To Be A Better Dancer In Three Steps

No matter how awkward or insecure you may be (and you're not alone), there comes a time when everyone must hit the dance floor with pride, or (maybe) die trying. Thankfully, this video from The Wall Street Journal breaks down the art of dancing into three easy steps: finding the basic beat of the music; step-touching with your feet; and trying variations of the step-touch to make it your own. It's an incredibly simple way to make the terrifying task of dancing in front of your friends and relatives a bit less daunting.

20. How To Save A Burnt Cake

Have your cake and then eat it, too. It takes so much work to bake a cake, and with this easy trick using a basic cheese grater to smooth off any blackened sections, you can avoid the massive letdown of a burned-looking dessert. Even better, the same trick will also work on a loaf of bread.

21. How To Play The Piano

Even if you never took piano lessons as a child, you can learn the basics with this series of short lessons. Whether it's learning the names of each key (like in this four-minute clip) or the follow-up videos on how to play various major and minor chords, a few minutes on YouTube will certainly get you past the "Chopsticks" playing level.

22. How To Repair Drywall

Fixing a hole in drywall isn't necessarily the sexiest skill, but it is one of the most satisfying—and essential. Rather than hiring a handyman to make the fix, use this video from Lowe's, which runs you through fixes for everything from tiny holes (which require some spackle and a drywall knife) to dents from door knobs (you'll need a patch kit) to bigger holes (get yourself some drywall, furring strips, and joint tape!). They might seem intimidating, but it's surprisingly easy to DIY.

23. How To Hit A Baseball

Many people can attest to the difficulty of hitting a baseball; some have even said it's the hardest thing "in the galaxy" to do. This video by ProSwingNY, however, breaks down the basic logistics in just seven fundamental steps, from squaring up to the pitcher to, of course, breathing. It might not take you to major league level, but it'll certainly give you a major advantage!

24. How To Juggle

Juggling is one of those skills that looks hard but is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. This video will help you learn to juggle three balls at once, starting from the very basics (learn to toss one ball back and forth with your eyes closed) up until you feel comfortable adding the second and third ball.

25. How To Pack A Suitcase

This video from Heathrow Airport uses flight attendant tips to help travelers maximize space in their suitcase. First, lay out everything you're thinking of bringing, then eliminate a third of it. Shoes go first: Stuff underwear and socks inside, then pop the shoes into the suitcase heel to toe. Pack the space between them with soft items like T-shirts (roll them if you have to!). Next, layer bulkier items like jeans and dresses by putting each item half in, half out of the suitcase, alternating sides; then, fold the parts outside the suitcase back into the suitcase. The next layer is a bag for your dirty clothes, over which you'll pack items like toiletries and books (make sure they're in the middle!). Snake belts around the inside edge of your suitcase. The last layer is collared shirts.

26. How To Improve Your Handwriting

Nearly everyone's handwriting can devolve into illegible chicken scratch without some practice and upkeep. If you want to spruce up your penmanship, this tutorial will walk you through some tips that you might have forgotten over the years, like how you shouldn't over-embellish any cursive loops and that proper spacing is key.

27. How To Do Calligraphy

If you've mastered cursive and want to take your writing skills to the next level, or if you just want to be able to enhance your next handwritten invitation, this how-to on modern calligraphy gives you a broad scope of the basics. Start by practicing all of letters individually to get used to making a thin upstroke and thick downstroke—and while you're at it, you'll be able to hone in on your favorite lettering style.

28. How To Get Wax Out Of A Tablecloth

Candle wax on the tablecloth is one of those unavoidable dinner party realities. But you won't cry over spilled wax if you have this video from Real Simple, which shows how to remove the melted material from fabric in two (or less) easy steps: First, freeze the waxed fabric, then scrape the wax off with a knife and throw the item in the laundry. If there's still wax remaining, it's time to get out some wax paper and an iron.

29. How To Ride A Bike

Biking is a great way to get around town—and a fun way to stay in shape—but if you didn't learn as a kid, riding on two wheels can seem pretty intimidating. This video by Cycling UK helps makes learning to ride as an adult easy, breaking down each step to properly guide you. It also emphasizes one particularly important fact: Practice makes perfect!

30. How To Make Balloon Animals

Balloon animals are irresistible. If you want to be a hit at the next children's birthday party you attend, this video by Balloon Animals on how to make a balloon dog is the place to start. It's commonly the first animal twisters learn to make, and because it requires three "lock" twists (at the ears and each set of legs), you'll learn how to make a sturdy animal from the get-go.

31. How To Knit

Though it may seem daunting at first, knitting is one of those skills that only becomes more rewarding over time. This how-to takes a look at the very first step necessary to knit anything: casting on. Let the soothing voice of Kristen Mangus of Goodknit Kisses be your guide as you learn to make your first stitch. Once you master that skill, GoodKnit Kisses has hundreds more videos of different techniques and tutorials for you to tackle.

32. How To Make A Paper Airplane

The fun of paper airplanes is often in the customization (hint: fancy wing fins), but it's also in the satisfaction of a successful flight. This video shows you how to not just make an airplane that will fly, but one that will fly fast. One you have the hang of this particular fold, you can move on to adding more embellishments.

33. How To Perform A Magic Trick

What's a great way to make your presence felt at whatever event you're attending? Magic, obviously. This video by Troom Troom SELECT shows you how to prepare and perform not just one, but 20 wildly different magic tricks. Each bit is designed for beginner magicians, but they'll still dazzle your unsuspecting audience.

34. How To Teach Your Cat To High-Five

Cats are notorious for doing only what they want to do, but don't let that fool you: They can be trained. To teach your cat how to high-five, stock up on a treat she loves, find an area that's distraction-free, and try to get her to bat at the treat. Interrupt the batting with your hand, make a clicking noise, and give her the treat; repeat. As with any skill, practice makes perfect, so keep at it with the tips in this video from Woman's Day—your kitty will be high-fiving in no time.

35. How To Meditate

Maybe you're stressed over that final paper you have due in a week, or there's a family gathering that you have been tasked with putting together. Finding ways to help your brain relax is important—and one of those ways is meditation. Achieving serenity isn't always easy, but this video breaks down the process into five easy steps: having the right location, keeping a straight spine, pre-mediation preparation, focusing on your breath, and observing without judgment.

36. How To Code

Coding—a.k.a. computer programming—is one of the most desirable and valuable skills to have in the 21st-century workplace. The complex system of symbols, letters, and commands can be intimidating, and learning the basics will take quite a bit longer than many of the other skills on this list. But starting with this video from Clever Programmer will help you understand what to look for in an online course and how to narrow down which language makes the most sense for you and your goals. Think of it as the tutorial before you begin your tutorials.

37. How To Dive

If you ever watch the summer Olympic Games, you might have been awestruck by the ways athletes made diving look so elegant. While this video by Sikana English can't guarantee you a spot on the podium, it does show you three methods—the pencil, sitting, and standing dives—for beginner divers, which will help you make a graceful entry into the water.

38. How To Play Poker

Don't know a flush from a flop? In under 10 minutes, get schooled on Texas Hold 'Em by a couple of professional British players from PokerStars, who up your ante by helping you learn the most important terms and the hierarchy of betting hands.

39. How To Drive Stick

Driving stick is almost a lost art form these days, but the delicate dance between clutch, brake, gas pedal, and gearshift can be mastered with help from Jalopnik's six-minute video. The goal is to avoid stalling the car; to do that, push the clutch all the way down to shift gears and brake, then ease slowly off the clutch as you press down on the gas. For your maiden voyage, it might help to have someone in the passenger seat giving you instructions.

40. How To Moonwalk

Learn to mimic the moves made famous by the King of Pop with this helpful guide from DZRCK, a dancer who offers a wealth of hip-hop tutorials on his YouTube channel. In this video, he breaks the magical glide of the moonwalk into three, easy-to-understand steps (and also addresses basic mistakes regularly made by beginners).

41. How To Do Basic CPR

CPR saves lives—just ask Michael Scott. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is easy to get the hang of (especially if you keep this playlist in mind), but it's more complicated than it appears, and updated information on proper techniques has changed over the years. This quick, 2-minute guide covers basic, compression-only CPR.

42. How To Play Chess

With over 100 million different variations of possible games, chess is the antithesis of what you might call simple. This video by Triple S Games won't make you a chess wiz, but it provides a succinct explanation of the basic principles of the game, including the rules and how each separate piece can move. Who knows, you might get hooked!

43. How To Play Pool

If you've seen movies featuring characters who enjoy a good hustle, chances are there was a game of pool involved. But it's not always as easy as it looks on the screen. This video by FargoBilliards teaches you how to play pool in under 10 minutes, so next time you find yourself at a local bar, you won't embarrass yourself pretending to be Paul Newman.

44. How To Play Guitar

At one point or another, the allure of being a rock star has probably crossed your mind. This video by onlineguitarschool may not lead you down the path of eternal glory, but it will give you the steps it takes to begin your journey in under 10 minutes, including an explanation of how each part of the guitar works and the function of the chords and strings on it. There's even a helpful mnemonic, "Elephants and Donkeys Grow Big Ears," to help you remember the order of the strings!

45. How To Take Better Photos

Ever heard of the "rule of thirds"? Using the grid feature in your camera app (or by conjuring up a mental grid), you'll want to position the most interesting elements of the photo along the points where those lines intersect. This could be a person standing on one side of the frame, or a tree in the bottom left corner. The off-balance effect will make your photo all the more appealing, and in this video, landscape photographer Joshua Cripps walks you through how to make your next vacation photos the envy of your whole network.

46. How To Frost A Cake Like A Pro

If you've ever cut into a homemade layer cake and realized the tiers of frosting inside looked a bit lopsided, this video from Martha Stewart's Kitchen Conundrums is for you. As host Thomas Joseph shows, all you need is a frozen cake, a serrated knife, an ice cream scoop, and—the secret ingredient—a rotating cake stand.

47. How To Fold T-shirts To Maximize Drawer Space

Make your drawers spark joy. Though this how-to calls for a folding tool (like this one), you can still achieve the tight fold for your various shirts without one. Once you get the hang of it, your dresser drawers will seem much more spacious (not to mention pretty, if you manage to also color-code them).

48. How To Order Wine At A Restaurant

Multi-page wine menus can be intimidating, even to those who have a general idea of what they like. But with this quick tutorial from a Texan sommelier, you'll have the basics covered with food pairing, price ranges, and what to say when ordering. (Hint: If you buy by the glass, the best bet is the second-cheapest option.)

49. How To Beatbox

Do you ever find yourself trying to replicate that cool beat you heard on the radio, but your unpolished skills produce a sound reminiscent of a car malfunctioning? Have no fear; this video by Howcast teaches the basics of beatboxing in just seven steps, and all you need is your mouth and a rhythm to focus on.

50. How To Fold An Origami Crane

Folding paper planes is a satisfying endeavor, but sometimes you might have greater aspirations in the paper-folding arts. Origami, in many ways, is the next step of this hierarchy of paper machinations. This video by EzOrigami gives you a detailed guide of how to create the iconic crane model, and the only thing you'll need is one square sheet of paper.

By Colin Ainsworth, Erika Berlin, Michele Debczak, Shaunacy Ferro, Kat Long, Bess Lovejoy, Erin McCarthy, Emily Petsko, Lucas Reilly, Javier Reyes, and Jake Rossen.

12 Amazing Facts About Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great moved to a foreign land as a teenager and became one of the most important leaders in its history. During her 34-year reign, she transformed Russia’s culture while expanding its borders. Here's what you need to know about the unlikely ruler, who is the subject of not one, but two series: HBO's Catherine the Great, which debuts on October 21, 2019, and Hulu's The Great, slated for 2020.

  1. Catherine the Great's name wasn't Catherine.

The woman who would become Catherine the Great was born Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst on April 21, 1729 (Julian Calendar) in Stettin, Prussia (now Szczecin, Poland). She was the daughter of Christian August, a minor German prince and general in the Prussian army, and Princess Johanna Elisabeth, who had connections to the Russian royal family.

Despite being a princess herself, young Sophie wasn’t exactly a top-tier member of the European nobility. But thanks to her mother’s campaigning, she was chosen to marry Karl Peter Ulrich (later known as Tsar Peter III), heir to the Russian throne. The couple wed on August 21, 1745. Sophie converted to Russian Orthodoxy—despite her Lutheran father’s objections—and took on a new Russian name: Ekaterina, or “Catherine.” Her official title would be Empress Catherine II (Peter the Great's second wife had been Empress Catherine I).

  1. Catherine the Great's marriage to Peter the III was rocky.

Catherine and Peter were an ill-matched pair: Catherine was bright and ambitious whereas Peter, according to Britannica, was "mentally feeble." Catherine didn’t like him: “Peter III had no greater enemy than himself; all his actions bordered on insanity,” she wrote in 1789. Her memoirs portray the Tsar as a drunk, a simpleton, and somebody who “took pleasure in beating men and animals.” Whether these statements are accurate or not, Catherine and her spouse were clearly unhappy, and they both had extramarital affairs. Catherine had at least three affairs, and hinted that none of her children were her husband's.

  1. Catherine the Great overthrew Peter the III so that she could rule.

Peter III assumed the throne on January 5, 1762, and was immediately unpopular. He enraged the military by pulling out of the Seven Years’ War and making big concessions to Russia’s adversaries in the process.

Eventually, Catherine believed that Peter was going to divorce her—so she worked with her lover, Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov, and her other allies to overthrow him and take the throne for herself. In July 1762, just six months after he took the throne, Peter III was deposed in a coup d'état. Eight days later, he was killed while in the custody of one of Catherine's co-conspirators.

With Peter out of the picture, Catherine became the new empress of Russia. She was formally crowned on September 22, 1762. She never married again, and took numerous lovers during her long reign.

  1. Voltaire was basically Catherine the Great's pen pal.

Catherine, a bibliophile, built up a collection of 44,000 books. Early in her reign, she began a correspondence with one of her favorite authors: The great Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. Russia fascinated Voltaire, who had written a biography of Peter the Great. Catherine would never get the chance to meet him in person, but through these letters, she and Voltaire discussed everything from disease prevention to Catherine's love of English gardens.

  1. Catherine the Great annexed Crimea.

Russian interest in the Crimean Peninsula long predates Vladimir Putin. After the Russo-Turkish War of 1768 to 1774, Catherine seized the landmass, thus strengthening Russia’s presence on the Black Sea. And her conquests didn’t end there. Over 200,000 square miles of new territory was added to the Russian empire during Catherine’s rule. Much of it was acquired when the once-independent nation of Poland was divided between Austria, Prussia, and Russia. Tsarina Catherine’s slice contained portions of modern-day Lithuania, Latvia, and Ukraine.

An illustration of Catherine the Great.
iStock.com/traveler1116
  1. Great Britain asked for Catherine the Great's help when the Revolutionary War broke out.

In 1775, the Earl of Dartmouth approached Catherine with a request for 20,000 Russian troops to help Britain put down the colonial rebellion in America. She refused. As the war continued, British diplomats kept trying to establish an alliance with Russia, hoping that the Empress would either send military aid or, failing that, pressure France into abandoning the American cause. Catherine did neither. However, out of concern for Russian shipping interests in the Atlantic (and elsewhere), she did attempt to mediate an end to the violence between Britain and its rebellious colonies in 1780.

  1. Alaska was colonized on Catherine the Great's watch.

Russian explorers had been visiting Alaska since 1741, but the empire didn’t set up its first permanent colony there until 1784, when merchant Grigory Shelikhov sailed to Kodiak Island and established the Three Saints Bay Colony. Later, in 1788, he visited Catherine in St. Petersburg and asked if she’d give his company a monopoly over the area’s lucrative fur trade. She denied his request, but thanked the explorer for “[discovering] new lands and peoples for the benefit of the state.” Russia’s colonial presence in North America would continue long after Catherine’s death—and it wasn’t limited to Alaska.

  1. Catherine the Great embraced inoculation.

Thomas Dimsdale, an English physician, built upon an existing technique for immunizing people to smallpox. The technique involved finding a carrier of the ailment, then taking a blade dipped in a very, very small amount of "the unripe, crude or watery matter" from that person's pustules and injecting it into the patient’s body. In 18th century Russia, smallpox claimed millions of lives, so Catherine was eager to see if Dimsdale’s strategy worked. At her invitation, he came to Russia and quietly inoculated the empress. The procedure was a success, and with the Tsarina’s encouragement, Dimsdale inoculated about 150 members of the nobility. Before the end of the century, approximately 2 million Russians had received smallpox inoculations.

  1. A rebel claimed to be Catherine the Great's dead husband.

Catherine’s Enlightenment-fueled beliefs didn't lead to the demise of serfdom. According to Marc Raeff in his book Catherine the Great: A Profile, "During her reign it was possible to buy and sell serfs with or without land, buy whole families or individuals, transact sales on the estate or marketplace; contemporaries termed all this ‘veritable slavery.'”

The unjust arrangement triggered 160 documented peasant uprisings in the first 10 years of Catherine’s reign. The best known of them was Pugachev’s Rebellion (1773-1775) [PDF], which was organized by Yemelyan Pugachev, a veteran of the Russo-Turkish wars. To win support, he introduced himself as Catherine’s deposed and deceased spouse, Peter III (even though Pugachev looked nothing like Peter). Pugachev and his followers enjoyed some big military victories early on, but after a crushing defeat in August 1774, their revolution fell apart. Pugachev was captured and executed in Moscow on January 10, 1775.

  1. Catherine the Great's art collection was the basis of St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum.

In 1764, Catherine purchased a set of 225 paintings—including works by Rembrandt and Frans Hals—from a Berlin dealer, and founded the Hermitage with those works. Catherine went on to buy or commission thousands of additional pieces for her budding museum. Today, the State Hermitage Museum has more than 3 million items in its collections.

  1. Catherine the Great was Russia's longest-serving female leader.

Thirty-four years after assuming the throne, Catherine passed away on November 6, 1796. The monarch was succeeded by her son, Tsar Paul I.

  1. Wild rumors flew after Catherine the Great's death—including that one about the horse.

A lot of rumors sprung up in the wake of Catherin's death. One said that she had died while on the toilet, while another—the most persistent tale, and a completely unfounded one—claimed that Catherine the Great was crushed to death while attempting to have sex with a stallion. Where exactly the story came from is unknown; an autopsy determined that the empress had actually died of a cerebral stroke.

10 Facts About the Beastie Boys's 'Sabotage' Video

Beastie Boys via YouTube
Beastie Boys via YouTube

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 told New 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 told New 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 told Vanity 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.

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