How does an octopus say "cheese"?

Presumably it sounds like a muffled underwater version of "Silly humans, bow down to your cephalopod overlords," but I can't say that we'll ever know for sure.

What we do know for sure is that an octopus named Rambo has mastered the art of the f-stop and is now selling her own original photographs to visitors at the New Zealand aquarium she calls home.


"Lights! Camera! Tentacle!" GIF via Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

Like many talented artists, this eight-armed savant is, erm, also a bit of a diva.

"On day two, she pulled the camera off, ripped it up, smashed it to bits and spat it out," behaviorist Mark Vette recalled. "We realized how powerful she was."

They went through a dozen iterations of the camera case before they settled on one that was strong enough to withstand her tentacled fury. (That's also how she got her name.)

"What is this cheap plastic crap? They don't make cameras like they used to." GIF via One News/TV New Zealand.

Fortunately, Rambo's creative endeavor is sponsored by Sony, who happily provided her with a new TX30 camera in the aftermath of her artistic outburst. You can even check out a whole gallery of her work on their Facebook page, allowing you'll have to forgive the occasional stray tentacle sneaking into the frame.

(In other words: Yes, this was originally part of a cross-promotional marketing opportunity, but that doesn't make it any less cool.)

"Make love to the camera, baby, yes, that's right. You're a natural!" GIF from Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

Rambo's not the only pictorially inclined marine mollusk either.

In March 2015, an octopus at Middlebury College turned the lens on his scientific observers. A digital media producer at the school visited a neuroscience laboratory where students were studying the clever creature. Mostly, they wanted to know if an octopus could learn by observing the actions of other octopuses.

But when they placed a GoPro in his tank, the octopus decided to turn things around and observe his own observers.

"No photos 'til I've had my coffee." GIF via Benjamin Savard/The Washington Post.

"I was just trying to brainstorm different ideas of how to show off the kind of unique research that's going on here and in ways that would be engaging," one of the students told The Washington Post. "I think the octopus's timing was great. I was just in the right place at the right time."

This all begs the question: How do octopuses even see?!

The obvious answer is, of course, with their eyes. Which is true. Ish. But like most things involving octopuses, the answer is much weirder and much more fascinating than that.

Unlike us lowly humans with our feeble brains that serve as central processing stations for our entire fragile bodies, octopus tentacles are capable of functioning as their own independent nervous systems. That's right: Each of those squirmy limbs with the suckers on the bottom basically have a mind of their own.

"Don't hate me 'cause I'm beautiful." GIF via Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

And just beneath the surface of the skin, those writhing minds are covered in cells called chromatophores, each of which is kind of like its own little painter's palette. These chromatophores can change color, which is how the octopus camouflages itself to lash out at unsuspecting passersby.

But they also contain opsins, the same light-sensitive proteins that are found in eye retinas. Which basically means that octopus skin can sense light and color without any help from the creature's brain.

That's right, they "see" with their freakin' tentacles!

"Oh no! The humans are catching on to us! Must escape!" GIF via Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

Honestly it's not entirely clear just how clever this specific photo-taking endeavor really is. But still!

Rambo was trained, like animals often are, using a food reward system. And her subjects all stand in a designated photobooth, within the range of the stationary camera. Obviously she's helped along by that handy autofocus feature, too — although that shouldn't necessarily be a slight against her intelligence, considering that most humans rely on that as well.

"What is 'art,' anyway? What does it truly mean to see, or to express oneself? Is art driven by intention, or the manifestation of the subconscious?" — a philosophtopus, probably. GIF via One News/TV New Zealand.

But that shouldn't detract from the fact that octopuses are weird, complicated, fascinating creatures, and we should consider ourselves lucky to share this wonderful planet alongside them.

Check out this behind-the-scenes video of Rambo the Octographer at work:

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Laverne Cox in 2016.

When kids are growing up they love to see themselves in the dolls and action figures. It adds a special little spark to a shopping trip when you hear your child say “it looks just like me.” The beaming smile and joy that exudes from their little faces in that moment is something parents cherish, and Mattel is one manufacturer that has been at the forefront of making that happen. It has created Barbies with freckles, afro puffs, wheelchairs, cochlear implants and more. The company has taken another step toward representation with its first transgender doll.

Laverne Cox, openly transgender Emmy award winning actor and LGBTQ activist, is celebrating her 50th birthday May 29, and Mattel is honoring her with her very own Barbie doll. The doll designed to represent Cox is donned in a red ball gown with a silver bodysuit. It also has accessories like high heels and jewelry to complete the look. Cox told Today, “It’s been a dream for years to work with Barbie to create my own doll.” She continued, “I can’t wait for fans to find my doll on shelves and have the opportunity to add a Barbie doll modeled after a transgender person to their collection.”

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.