Cold War fears led Helsinki to build a world underground
Nearly 200 miles of tunnels snake beneath Helsinki, providing a weatherproof subterranean playground for the Finnish capital’s residents and visitors. Yet hidden behind the bright lights of the underground attractions—which include a museum, church, go-kart track, hockey rink, and more—are emergency shelters fitted with life-sustaining equipment: an air filtration system, an estimated two-week supply of food and water, and cots and other comforts. The shelters reflect a chilling geopolitical reality for a small country that shares an 833-mile border with Russia, its longtime nemesis. Helsinki began excavating tunnels through bedrock in the 1960s to house power lines and sewers and other utilities, then realized the space could also shelter the city’s population of 630,000 in the event of another invasion from the East.
The hit Italian song that sounds like English but is actually gibberish
In 1972, a popular Italian singer named Adriano Celentano released a single called “Prisencolinensinainciusol,” written by him amd performed with his wife Claudia Mori, a singer/actress turned record producer. Both the title of the song and its lyrics are gibberish. Celentano said later that his intention was to explore communication barriers. “Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did,” Celentano said in an interview with NPR. “So at a certain point, because I like American slang—which, for a singer, is much easier to sing than Italian—I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate. And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn’t mean anything.”
When H. L. Mencken reviewed F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby"
Did Mencken like Fitzgerald's novel about the rich and amoral playboy? It would seem not, based on this review: "Scott Fitzgerald's new novel is in form no more than a glorified anecdote. The scene is the Long Island that hangs precariously on the edges of the New York City trash dumps — the Long Island of the gandy villas and bawdy house parties. The theme is the old one of a romantic and preposterous love. The principal personage is a bounder typical of those parts – a young man with a great deal of mysterious money. This clown Fitzgerald rushes to his death in nine short chapters. The other performers are of a like, or even worse, quality."
The ‘perpetual broths’ that simmer for decades or more
When Magdalena Perrotte arrived in the U.S. from France in 1982, she had a secret stashed in her purse—a large jar, filled with a precious golden liquid. “I had it carefully wrapped in a scarf, as well as some raw milk cheeses and cured saucisson—French ingredients you couldn’t buy in Florida,” Perotte, a former owner of Orlando institution Le Coq au Vin, recalls. “I became an expert at hiding food from customs officials.” Four decades later, Perrotte still uses the same smuggled broth in her cooking. She boasts that this magical elixir, lovingly concocted by her mother in her Normandy kitchen, “is older than Taylor Swift.”
Palau, the Micronesian archipelago that baseball built – or rebuilt
What would a country run by baseball players look like? Would it be a sabermetrics-driven technocracy? A clutch-obsessed theocracy? A cup-adjusting macho dystopia? This isn’t a thought experiment. It’s happening right now in Palau, a tiny archipelago of some 20,000 souls located in the Western Pacific that is currently playing host to a radical experiment in letting the sluggers run the show. Baseball has dominated the cultural and sporting life of Palau for almost 100 years, which is about four times longer than Palau’s been an independent nation. But baseball has also shaped Palau. It’s more than a national pastime here. It’s an organizing principle—or, more accurately, a re-organizing principle. Before the 20th century, Palau was a matriarchy.
Companies can hire a virtual person for about $14k a year in China
From customer service to the entertainment industry, businesses in China are paying big bucks for virtual employees. Tech company Baidu said the number of virtual people projects it’s worked on for clients has doubled since 2021, with a wide price range of as little as $2,800 to a whopping $14,300 per year. Virtual people are a combination of animation, sound tech and machine learning that create digitized human beings who can sing and even interact on a livestream. They have become widely popular in China. Some buyers of virtual people include financial services companies, local tourism boards and state media, said Li Shiyan, who heads Baidu’s virtual people and robotics business.