The song Happy Birthday to You is in the public domain. But that didn’t stop a music publishing company collecting two million dollars a year for its use.
In Mexican wrestling the mask is sacred, and its loss in the ring is the ultimate insult. The first Mexican wrestler to lose his mask was El Murciélago Enmascarado, The Masked Bat, and it all happened eighty years ago.
For the several of the first modern Olympic Games you could win a gold medal in sculpture, painting, music, literature, or architecture.
In 1947 the English author Dennis Wheatley wrote a letter to the dystopian future he thought was coming and buried it. Twenty-two years later the letter was uncovered. It had not aged well.
In southern and south-eastern Asia and the Pacific, teeth were blackened or lacquered to keep them intact and healthy.
Marc-André Hamelin’s piano piece Circus Galop cannot be played by a human. It was not written with humans in mind.
Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books have a long history in the Soviet Union and Russia, from illegal translations in the 1960s to a film in the 1980s to an unauthorised retelling sympathetic to the orcs in the 1990s.
The legendary voice actor Mel Blanc appeared in only two Disney films in his entire career, and in one of them he was mute.
Shengguan Tu is a board game from a millennium ago that charts players’ rise through the many layers of Chinese bureaucracy.
Mix egg yolks, dates, honey, vinegar, oil, wine, shallots, and herbs, and then add a roasted flamingo. This is Apicius, one of the earliest surviving cookbooks.
In 1975 the artists Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt published a set of cards designed to provoke creative thinking. The Oblique Strategies deck has become a legend of the art and design worlds.
The Poison Damsels of ancient Indian mythology were assassins who could kill someone with a look or a touch.
Paintings last longer on canvas than wood or plaster – so from the 18th century CE on, restorers have transferred famous art onto canvas using razors, laughing gas, and glue.
Ever see someone get hit over the head with a bottle in an old film? They could probably eat the glass afterwards.
French magician Ivan Chabert was famous in the 19th century CE for his feats with heat: sitting in an oven, putting melted lead in his mouth, and bathing his feet in molten metal.