Thursday, March 10, 2011

Facts, New or Not

This edition of Facts throws out a few big numbers at the beginning and the end, takes you into our "nation's attic", links you to the discovery of the remains of the whaling ship whose skipper inspired Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, and reveals the latest in eyewear.

✦ The 2010 Iowa State Fair boasted something you don't often come across in Midwestern fields of corn and grain: Minas Tirith, a re-creation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fortress City of Kings from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The extraordinary structure by artist Patrick Acton is made entirely of non-sulphur-tipped matchsticks. Acton, known as "The Matchmaker", crimped and bent and glued some 420,000 matchsticks to create the piece, which also includes 24,000 small wooden blocks for the supporting mount and features gates, tunnels, ramps, steps, and passageways along its seven levels. He began the project in 2007 and completed it in February 2010. 

Patrick Acton, Minas Tirith, 2010
Matchsticks, Wooden Blocks, Wood Glue

Click on image to enlarge view. For additional images of this marvel, go here.

Matchstick Marvels Tourist Center, Gladbrook, Iowa, showcases Acton's work, which has been purchased for Ripley's Believe It or Not museums around the world. Among Acton's other creations are matchstick models of the U.S. Capitol, The Crooked House, and the Cutty Sark clipper ship.

An Iowa Public Television interview with Action in May 2010 is here.

✦ Not everything found in our "nation's attic" is a treasure or a gem. As this interesting post documents, staff at Smithsonian Institution Archives have found in archival boxes dirt, flooring samples, whiteout, gum wrappers, a frisbee, and bugs, bird droppings, and shedded snake skin. The day they examined those boxes, they also opened up their storage space by filling a few circular files.

✦ The Smithsonian, by the way, once turned down an offer to purchase a biped dog, "Clelonda". 

✦ The remains of Two Brothers, the whaling ship skippered by Captain George Pollard, who inspired Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, were discovered recently by marine archaeologists in shallow waters off Hawaii.

✦ Those of us who are over 40 and also farsighted may soon be charging our eyeglasses overnight. PixelOptics of Roanoke, Virginia, has created emPower electronic spectacles that allow their wearers to dial up or decrease reading power simply by touching the side of the frames.

✦ You might enjoy your local theatre's popcorn but the Center for Science in the Public Interest wants you to know that the largest movie theatre chain in the United States, Regal, serves up a whopping 1,610 calories, plus 60 grams of saturated fat, with every "medium combo" it sells for $12. According to CSPI,  it won't help to switch your choice of snack to an eight-ounce bag of Reese's Pieces, which make for a heart-stopping 1,160 calories and 35 grams of saturated fat — the equivalent of a 16-ounce t-bone steak and buttered baked potato. For a more graphic depiction of CSPI's findings, go here.


Glynn said...

I love that Minas Tirith recreation. Wow!

Louise Gallagher said...

I could use those glasses to read The High School Reader!

And wow -- re Minas Tirith! is right -- Wow!

thanks for all these facts Maureen -- gotta find a place to drop these gems into a dinner conversation :)!


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. I was AT the Iowa State Fair. How did I miss the matchstick Minas Tirith? That's just wrong.

Hannah Stephenson said...

I wanted to comment on the other cool oddities, but then I got to the last item in the list. EWWWWWW. Hideous. That is horrifying.

Kathleen Overby said...

I'd love to see that ship! The matchstick link was awesome. Great finds/shares. :)

thelmaz said...

The matchstick construction is amazing.
I'm never buying popcorn at the movies again!!

S. Etole said...

I'm with the "Minas Tirith" comments ... incredible!

Anonymous said...

i like the mound of matchsticks.

and i want those glasses!

the sad red earth said...

So Moby Dick was a prototype for Law and Order, Ben Franklin and I are both yearning for some emPower eye glasses, and thank you for ruining my next movie munch.