Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sock Monkey Festival

Just look at that poster - in all its laser-eyed, UFO glory - and tell me you're not going to the Sock Monkey Festival in Rockford this weekend.

Perhaps best-known as the birthplace of Cheap Trick, Rockford also gave the world the sock knitting machine. The garments from said machine became the basis for the Sock Monkey, the classic brown-and-red stuffed animal toted by generations of kiddies.

The city pays homage every March with two days of monkey-making workshops, the Sock Monkey Hall of Fame inductions, and Ms Sockford Beauty and Talent Pageant. Meat will be served, monkeys will be healed (at Sockford General Hospital), and who knows - Cheap Trick may bust out an ax.

Watch this video by author Ron Warren to see monkey madness in action.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Websites for Gloves, Dibs, Fedoras

Looking for your lost glove? Want to see poll workers filing petitions? These offbeat blogs and websites bring it:

•    Looking for Glove - Helps Chicagoans find lost handwear via photos and descriptions.

•    Chicago Dibs - Check out photos showing the Chicago custom of dibs - holding a shoveled-out parking space after a snowstorm using chairs, boards and other street "art."

•    Wisconsin Government Accountability Board - Watch workers counting Gov. Walker recall petitions via webcam. Woo!

•    To Be Demolished - Gapers Block has a great section with pics and details of Chicago architecture on the hit list.

•    Chicago Shovels - Let it snow, bitches. This portal has the lowdown on plow locations, parking bans, adopt-a-sidewalk and more.

•    Chicago Past - Posts two big-ass photos daily of historic Chicago; lots of horses, buggies and guys in fedoras.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Brains in Jars

Brain tourism: it's a travel trend, in case you didn't know.

I first came across brains in jars a few months ago at the forlorn, barbed-wire-enclosed Indiana Medical History Museum, located in the state's old insane asylum. Tours roam the former pathology lab and show how early medicine was practiced, from the cold-slabbed autopsy room to the eerie specimen room. Pickled brains fill the shelves of the latter. Each is tagged with its defect: hydrocephalus, kicked by a horse, syphilis...

Unique? Not really. Lima, Peru, has a Brain Museum with over 3000 brains in jars. Philadelphia's Mutter Museum boasts Einstein's brain (in slices). Yale has 650 brains on display. Cornell has lots of lobes, too - though it says "brain collecting has dimmed" since the 1970s.

Tell that to Washington DC's National Zoo. It has whole cabinets of brains in jars, from pygmy hippos to blue whales, white-tailed deer to red foxes. Because nothing says "fun!" to kids like a roomful of dead animal organs.