Hello Dolly Collection!

Divorce Barbie always gets the car.

Dolls have been around since ancient times, with written descriptions of dolls used as toys dating back to 100 AD. We’ve been collecting and displaying them almost as long. Some people get a little more crazy with their collections than others…

Take Bettina Dorfmann of Germany, for example. Guinness awarded her with the record for the largest Barbie doll collection in 2013. Bettina has 15,000 unique Barbie doll “items”. Yes, they’ve made at least that many. It took 19 years of dedicated collecting to get to this point, and she’s always looking to expand. The most expensive Barbie in her collection cost her $10,000: a “Barbie ponytail #1” with accessories and in mint condition.

The boys can participate as well, and still maintain their manhood. Mattel’s Masters of the Universe collection consisted of well over sixty action figures alone in the original run of toys. This does not include larger creatures or battle vehicles. The series was brought back after a lengthy hiatus with an even larger run.

These figures continue to be made and released as the “Classics” series that are aimed squarely at collectors. Prices can be sky high for these action figures that used to sell for as low as a few dollars at your local department store. Rarer specimens in mint condition can go for hundreds of dollars a piece, while a Wonder-bread promotional He-Man figure complete can start at $1,000.

Now might be a good time to plan a trip to the old attic.

Diversions: The Mütter Museum

The line to get in can get pretty long...
The line to get in can get pretty long…

Writing blurbs about the largest/biggest/tallest/oldest/etc-est is all fun and whatnot, but I think it’s time to branch out a wee bit. So I came up with the idea of Diversions. Essentially Diversions will consist of a random topic of interest. Come read about it here, then go off and explore on your own(just make sure to come back after!) Nothing’s more refreshing than some good-old exploration. 🙂

Face-off!
Face-off!

What better place to start than the Mütter Museum? Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Mütter was originally a collection donated by one Dr. Thomas Mütter in 1858. He freely donated the collection with the stipulation that The College of Physicians add to it and maintain it as a museum.

Besides being popularly known for just being all around “gross” and “icky”, the museum boasts an impressive collection of human skulls. There are also a number of human skeletons (including the tallest currently on display in the US) and “fetal anomalies”.

I win!
I win!

The museum is perhaps best known to the general public for a handful of side-showesque displays that are prominently featured. In fact, the subjects of one display used to be side-show all-stars. The conjoined liver and death cast of the famous conjoined “Siamese” twins Chang and Eng Bunker are on display.

Other oddities include slides of Albert Einstein’s brain, Grover Cleveland’s mouth tumor and tissue removed from assassin John Wilkes Booth. There are plenty of other less famous anomalies to be found, such as the “soap lady” and a rather gigantic colon that’s even spawned its own cute plush doppelganger.

So what I’m saying is, you know, fun for the whole family. Make sure you check it out!

Ocean Dwelling Dynamos

Pictured: Your mom
Pictured: Your mom

The seven seas are teeming with life. The last true undiscovered country on Earth, the deepest depths of the ocean may yet hold immense lifeforms we’ve never seen. Thanks to the buoyancy water affords to those creatures that live in it, the oceans are home to the largest animals in the world.

The blue whale blows away any challengers by a large margin. Full-grown specimens can top out at upwards of 100 feet long and can weigh up to 150 tons. To give this animal’s size some perspective, its heart alone weighs an average of 1,300 pounds. That’s around the same weight as a full grown cow. What could possibly compete with that?

Well, if you prefer your gigantic water dwellers sans vertebrae, then you can always turn to the colossal squid. Best estimates put adult specimens between 40 and 45 feet long. That puts it at about half the size of a blue whale. Humpback whales should take note, though. They are about the same length, and are known to have scars that are believed to have been caused by the colossal squid.

A tad bit squishier, and a lot less deadly, is the lion’s mane jellyfish. The largest discovered was a mere 7.5 feet in diameter, but sported tentacles that measured an impressive 120 feet long. That’s longer than the blue whale up there. Despite it’s impressive size, its sting would be no more annoying than a mosquito bite to our other two seafaring giants.

Fat Mop Zoo Celebrates the Release of “After”!

Introducing "After", a new novel by John Prescott!
Introducing “After”, a new novel by me, John Prescott!

I am happy to announce the release of my first novel, After! You can buy it on Amazon.com by clicking HERE, available in paperback and Kindle eBook formats. If you’re local, I have copies on hand!

Alex heard the reports on the nightly news his father always had playing in the background. Threats of nuclear Armageddon were becoming ominously commonplace. Still, he never thought he’d live to see the day that the rhetoric became reality.

He thought wrong.

He and his father raced for the military Cryo-Facility as reports poured in from England and the US of nuclear missile launches from both sides. He kept checking the rear-view mirror, hoping to glimpse his mother’s car.

Alex’s father tried to reassure him that his mother would make it to safety. There was still time. Alex closed his eyes in his cryopod and said a silent prayer for his mother.

He awoke to blaring klaxons and flashing lights. The people in the pods beside him were dead. He was completely alone. Fifty-two years had passed.

I worked on this book for six months and am very proud of it. I hope you’ll choose to join Alex on his journey of discovery in the After! Thanks for reading!

Opposite Day: Big Trouble in Miniature China

Must have been Grad Night again...
Must have been Grad Night again…

Fat Mop Zoo’s second Opposite Day takes us to Citrus Ridge, Florida, the final resting place of the Splendid China miniature theme park. Open in 1993, it had sixty different miniature hand-made replicas of famous Chinese landmarks in 1/10 scale to explore. In addition to the exhibits, park goers could be entertained by a cast of sixty Chinese dancers and performers.

Before...
Before…

The Great Wall of China replica consisted of over six million one-inch bricks and stretched a half mile. The Imperial Palace covered more than a half acre. The Leshan Giant Buddha (pictured to the left and below) was four stories tall, still dwarfing onlookers even as a miniature.

Despite its grandeur, Splendid China became a source of controversy almost from the moment it was announced.

After.
After.

The theme park was technically more or less owned and operated by the People’s Republic of China. Tibetans and other cultural minorities with cultural landmarks exhibited in the park were actually offended. They felt the theme park essentially claimed these landmarks as China’s own.

Additionally, a number of school boards and teachers’ associations banned field trips to the park. There were many Americans that were unhappy with the park, seeing it as a tool of propaganda. Even those lively Chinese performers were unhappy with the park. Many escaped from the park and sought asylum in the United States. US performers were eventually hired to fill in the empty positions.

The park finally closed after a decade full of protests and controversy. The park was invaded and ransacked by the local youth time and again in the ensuing years. What was left of the miniatures saw pieces stolen or destroyed. Eventually the whole park was slowly being reclaimed by nature. After passing through several owners, the remains of the park started to be torn down in 2013.

Home, Sweet Prison

Some prisons are nicer than others, like this one!
Some prisons are nicer than others, like this one!

Prisons are like homes. The come in all shapes and sizes. Some are nicer than others. Occasionally, they are set upon by the undead. That last one isn’t as common but I heard it helps to combat boredom in the prison population. Here are some notable ones…

Not surprisingly, the world’s largest prison is located in the country with the world’s largest prison population: the United States. Rikers Island in New York City is literally an island-sized jail complex located adjacent to LaGuardia Airport. A whopping 12,300 convicts are looked after by 9,000 officers. The first batch of prisoners touched down on the island all the way back in 1932. None were zombified, though.

That sounds like it could get a little crowded. What about a nice facility? Bastøy Prison in Norway fits the bill. The 2.5 mile island houses a mere 115 prisoners. Convicts live in cottages (which they hold the keys to) and work on a prison farm. But they also find time to go sunbathing on the beach, go horseback riding and enjoy some tennis. They don’t even have to worry about dead people rising from the grave which is good, since some are convicted murderers…

Maybe that was a little too nice. Prisoners are in prison to be punished, not coddled! You should send them to Camp 22 in North Korea… or not, if you have a soul. Inmates are said to be regularly subjected to extreme torture. Others are experimented on with deadly chemicals and other hazardous agents such as anthrax.

Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and guess that’s where the zombies are…

 

Perfectly Aged Drinking Establishments

Ug Beer Bar: Established 40,016 BCE
Ug Beer Bar: Established 40,016 BCE

It seems like every town has the one local bar that’s been around “forever”. The funny thing is some bars really have been around forever. Today, we’re embarking on the ultimate global bar crawl.

Okay, so the oldest bar in the world doesn’t quite date back to prehistory, but you can still make it pretty far back. The oldest documented bar, appropriately established in Athlone, Ireland in 900 CE, is simply known as Sean’s Bar. I’m going to go ahead and guess that having a creative name back then just wasn’t as important as it is today.

Renovations in 1970 revealed building materials in the walls that dated back to the 10th century. The bar also has records of every owner of the bar dating back to the same time period. The most notable owner? Boy George. He owned it briefly back in 1987. The paperwork available was compelling enough for Guinness to grant them the record for World’s Oldest Bar.

If Ireland is a little farther than you are willing to travel for some well-aged whiskey, you can always hop on down to Louisiana. The oldest continuously operating bar in the US is located in New Orleans(again some would say appropriately.) Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop opened its doors sometime prior to 1772.

The infamous pirate Jean Lafitte is, somewhat obviously, rumored to have owned the watering hole at one point. There’s been no concrete evidence found to prove this belief, unfortunately. Pirates weren’t known to keep good records of their activities for some odd reason.

Plants Are Awesome, Too

Poor conversationalists, but very beautiful.
Poor conversationalists, but very beautiful.

It occurred to me that I’ve been giving animals a whole lot of loving while completely ignoring the leafy side of the coin. Plants can be just as lovable as puppies and kittens! Well, mostly… Regardless, here’s to some mighty massive plants!

Trees are an obvious place to start when it comes to record size and staying power. These plus-size plants manage to reach their epic heights by growing over the course of dozens, if not hundreds of years. But just like with animals, there’s always overachievers.

The current oldest living tree is Old Tjikko in Switzerland. It was born approximately 9,550 years ago. To put this into perspective, it was born a mere fourteen years after Atlantis sank into the sea(according to legend.) As is often the case with the geriatric set, this tree’s a little on the short side.  The ancient specimen stands a paltry sixteen feet tall.

Not surprisingly, the record for tallest living tree goes to Hyperion, a redwood tree in Northern California. It stands at an astounding height of 379 feet, equivalent to a 31-story building. Despite it’s amazing stature, Hyperion is believed to be between 700 and 800 years old.

So we have the oldest, and the tallest, but what about the largest overall?

That record goes to General Sherman, a 2,100 year-old Giant Sequoia that can be found appropriately enough in Sequoia National Park in California(what is it about that state, anyway?) The good General is a good hundred feet shorter than Hyperion, but is over 27 feet wide. The bark itself is believed to be up to two feet thick in places! The estimated weight for this behemoth?  4,000,000 pounds.

Cats and Dogs: Super-Sized Edition

Too big! TOO BIG!
Too big! TOO BIG!

For my inaugural Opposite Day I did the smallest cat and dog breeds. I thought it would be fun to do the opposite (get it?) and showcase the largest cat and dog breeds! 😀 Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and guess that the dogs are getting another game point.

That person is like six feet tall
Great Dane

Scooby-dooby-doo! The largest breed of dog is almost certainly the Great Dane. These massive pups average nearly three feet tall at the shoulder, but it’s not uncommon to see even taller examples. The tallest recorded being 3 feet, 8 inches at the shoulder.

They also regularly weigh as much as the average adult human male. Larger specimens tip the scale at upwards of 200 lbs. Their sheer size, and the fact that their dietary needs are as large as they are, may contribute to their relatively short lifespan. Danes typically only live 7 to 10 years.

By Loreal
Maine Coon Cat

Sorry cat lovers, the dogs do indeed win again(that’s 3-0 now!) Like the smallest cat breed, this matter is made a little complicated by what’s considered a breed. I’ll talk more on that later.

Officially, the Maine Coon is considered the largest domesticated cat breed. These mammoth mounds of fur can tip the scales at 20 lbs. The longest Maine Coon on record was just over four feet long!

Cat lovers take heart, because the biggest cat lives longer than the biggest dog. Maine Coons can live 12 to 16 years(3-1!) That’s the same lifespan as the Savannah, which is the Maine Coons’ contender for the crown. Not yet fully considered a domestic breed, this half-domestic, half-African Serval has been known to grow up to four and a half feet long and reach 17 inches at the shoulder.

Taking Temperatures to the Extreme

Turn on the heat, would you?
Death Valley in wintertime

Humans like to complain… a lot. One of those things humans like to complain about most are temperature extremes. It’s the dead of winter, below freezing. We think of sitting out in the sun in eighty degree weather, sipping our iced tea. Then when it’s eighty degrees out we huddle in our air conditioned homes and dream of the wonderful cold of winter.

One thing we humans are even worse about is realizing that it could always be much, much worse. Take the heat, for example. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who would tell you that 100 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t so bad. Then again, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone alive the day it hit 134 degrees Fahrenheit in Furnace Creek, California.

That’s the hottest recorded temperature on earth, and it’s stood for a hundred years. Yes, it was in Death Valley. Why wouldn’t it be? From one extreme to another, let’s see how frigid things can get.

The coldest temperature was predictably recorded in Antarctica, and it was nearly the mirror opposite of the record high: -135.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Going out in 25 degree weather suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Well… okay, yeah it does. Man, I can’t wait for summer vacation in Death Valley!

On second thought, I can wait…